Changes for Kirsten

Written by Janet Beeler Shaw; illustrated by Renee Graef

Published in 1987


It's January again (not sure if it's 1854 or 1855). Kirsten's father and uncle are away at a logging camp. Kirsten accompanies her older brother Lars and his friend John to see what their traps have caught. There's enough meat for dinner and then some. The last trap contains a baby raccoon, just barely caught by its tails. Kirsten decides to nurse it back to health and then release it into the wild. Not even twenty-four hours later, the raccoon gets loose in the house (it had been in the barn, but Kirsten thought it was too cold) and knocks over a kerosene lamp, starting a fire. The fire spreads quickly, and their home is lost. Kirsten was able to grab some precious mementos and save them in the family's trunk, but that doesn't solve the problem of their home being destroyed.

Kirsten, her mother, and her siblings move in with her cousins and aunt. It's cramped, but it's secure against the winter. Another family is going to move to Oregon later in the year. Their house would be perfect, except that they want to sell it for five times as much as Kirsten's father will make logging. So Kirsten and Lars check their traps even more diligently, in hopes of getting enough furs to sell to help raise money. One day, they get lost and end up at an old fur trapper's home, deep in the woods. Needing shelter, they go in only to find the man dead, presumably of old age. The man, almost a legend in the area, had no family or next-of-kin. Kirsten and Lars decide that once the ground thaws, they can give the man a proper burial, and that since no one exists to claim the vast piles of high-quality furs in his house, they can have them to sell (the book makes that point more convincingly than I just did).

The furs bring in enough money that the Larsons can afford the new house, which is much fancier than their old log cabin: glass windows, plastered walls, and from the picture, an upstairs. The family moving to Oregon even leaves their furniture behind for them.

Looking Back

The Looking Back segment also looks a little forward of the time frame of the book, talking about the progress that came with new technology. Trains brought more goods from the bigger cities in the east, and new farm equipment gave rise to the larger type of farm we see today. Technology like sewing machines and more efficient stoves, and later electricity made housework easier to manage and safer: an electric lightbulb is far less likely to start a fire than a candle.


Same dedication and autograph as in the other main six. Check your books before you sell them online!

Baby Britta is crawling now, and eating some food (oatmeal is mentioned). She's almost eight months old now.

I'm very happy that when Kirsten's brother carefully pronounces Oregon it's spelled out "Ore-gon" with just two syllables. I live three hours north of the Oregon-Washington border, and sometimes I'll hear "Or-eh-gone." Or worse: "Worsh-in-tun." Oregon is two syllables; Washington has no R.

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