Thirteen-year-old Thomas Hunter has always longed to taste the freedom of life on the Western range, away from the stuffy home and watchful eyes of his well-to-do grandparents in Virginia. So when a letter arrives from his father inviting Thomas to join him and his new family on their Kansas farm, he can already see himself riding across the prairie like a real cowboy, living the true Code of the West.

Yet the hardscrabble farm isn’t what Thomas expected. There’s hardly enough food; his new stepmother doesn’t approve of his ways; and he spends all his time mucking out the barn and working the fields.

Then, just as Thomas begins to grow restless, a herd gets swept up in a cattle stampede and he must follow a group of cowboys to reclaim them. Finally facing the prairie adventures he’s dreamed of, he finds himself confronted with challenging decisions, eye-opening action, and an honor to uphold that calls for the real Code of the West.

Kirkus Reviews – starred review:
“Seely’s evocative writing has a flair for the vivid simile and seamlessly weaves a wealth of information about the prairie into this story of a boy who must overcome his ‘halfway feeling’ between the two lives he has known. The characters ring true, and the author does not shy away from the seamier sides of cowboy life, including the brothel in the dark alley behind the saloon. . . . An excellent coming-of-age story and a must for collections on prairies, cowboy life, and westward expansion after the Civil War.”

School Library Journal -- starred review:
“With just enough whining, sibling jealousy, and confused emotions, the first-person narrative has the genuine voice of a 13-year-old boy. Mixing humor with hardship gives the story a balance that pulls readers on to the next chapter, knowing that Thomas will choose to stay with his father rather than return to Virginia. In using her great-grandfather as inspiration plus an excellent list of primary and secondary sources, the author has created a fine historical novel that will satisfy those curious about the 1880s, as well as those looking for adventure.”

Booklist:
“Seely's gentle prose invites readers to languish through the chapters. Like the landscape she describes, the story is quiet, broad, and sweeping, and her weatherworn characters embrace their lives and struggles with much fortitude and no sentimentality. Her grasp of a male point of view is firm, and her depiction of even the harshest of characters is underscored by compassionate understanding of the tenacity demanded by the barren land.”

 

Awards

Grasslands won the Society of Midland Authors award for juvenile fiction in 2003.  It was a finalist for the 2003 Western Writers of America Golden Spur Award. It made Bank Street’s List of Best Children’s Books for 2003 and was nominated for the William Allen White award 2004-05. 

 

The cover art of Grasslands is from The  Reaper by C.A Seward