Pioneer Girl: A True Story of Growing Up on the Prairie

Pioneer Girl Book Jacket

Pioneer Girl:
A True Story of Growing
Up on the Prairie

(University of Nebraska Press,
New Edition, 2009)

In the little Nebraska town where I grew up, everything centered around farmers and farming. My father was the superintendent of schools, but farming still had a strong impact on our lives, for many students lived on farms, and farming drove the economy of the community. I would visit my friends who lived on farms, but I never much liked it. Too quiet out there, away from town. Too much work to do–all those chores, twice a day. Too dirty. I was always stepping in something I didn’t want to step in. As for those endless cornfields–well, you could get lost out there, and that sometimes worried me.

Still, I had great admiration for farmers and their families. Every family member worked. My friends worked–and they worked hard! But they also had something very special, for they were living on land homesteaded by their grandparents and great-grandparents. If the work was this punishing now, what must it have been like for those first homesteaders? I had learned a little from Willa Cather’s books, especially My Antonia (one of my all-time favorite books), but I was curious to know more. I began looking for the story of a Nebraska homestead child, and I found a wonderful account in the book No Time on My Hands, a memoir dictated by Grace McCance Snyder to her writer-daughter Nellie Snyder Yost when Grace was 80 (she lived to be 100).

I loved the story. I especially loved Grace’s spunk and determination. I had found my subject. To the material from the memoir, I added family members’ recollections of Grace, plus a wealth of information from other sources to tell what life was like for homestead children. All in all, it was a very satisfying book to write. I just wish I could have known Grace. What an incredible person she was!

From the Reviewers:

School Library Journal:
“This is a fine personal portrait of one woman’s life and a good read. Excellent quality archival photos, many of Grace’s own family, enhance the well-documented text.”

Children’s Literature:
“This charming true story is based on the memories, memoirs, and interviews with friends of the Nebraska pioneer Grace McCance Snyder. . . . The book stands strongly on its own as lively and immediate history. It could anchor a prairie/pioneer theme in the upper elementary or middle school curriculum.”

“Warren, basing her work on the memoir of Grace McCance Snyder about her pioneer childhood in Nebraska, also tells the riveting story of life on the prairie and the determination of the families who settled there.”

A Favorite Reader Review:
Dear Ms. Warren, I wanted to tell you how much I liked your book. I liked the juicy details. My favorite part was when the girls went swimming. I wish you could visit our school. — Thanks, Jairo

Awards and Recognition:

  • Recipient of the Midland Authors Award
  • Golden Sower Award finalist
  • Notable Children’s Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies
  • Young Hoosier Book Award nominee
  • Featured on NPR’s Loose Leaf Book Company program
  • Featured on Booknotes C-SPAN television show
  • Scholastic Book Club Selection
  • South Carolina Association of School Librarians’ Children’s Book Award
  • Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children from the National Council of Teachers of English
  • Excerpted in both Spanish and English by Harcourt School Publishers in its Social Studies Program
  • Audio available in Spanish and English from Harcourt
  • Available in Japanese edition from Houbunsha Publishing
  • Selected by Nebraska Literary Heritage Association as one of the 150 most notable books about Nebraska to commemorate 150 years of statehood. Also selected for the shortlist of 36 books about Nebraska.
  • Chosen by Cozad, Nebraska, as its One Book, One Cozad selection.