- Journey to La Salle’s Settlement
Melodie Cuate has, once again, taken the reader on an adventure to remember in the fifth story of the Mr. Barrington’s Mysterious Trunk Series. Journey to La Salle’s Settlement begins with Hannah, Nick, and Jackie all facing the regular teenage problems of lost school reports, lost phones and (for Nick) problems with a girl. Mr. Barrington, a seventh-grade Texas history teacher reminds the three that those are comparatively minor issues when one looks into the past. Hannah observes that “Things must have been a lot less complicated in those days” (8). Hannah, unfortunately, said this in the presence of the mysterious trunk and right before Mr. Barrington has to leave the room.
The trio are once again swept into the past, this time onto La Salle’s ill-fated ship, La Belle. There they meet the sailors of the expedition, who mistake them for children of the expedition who have wandered away from the beach camp. After exploring most of the ship and surviving the wreck of the La Belle, Jackie, Nick, and Hannah make their way ashore and eventually make their way up the creek to [End Page 212] a larger camp, Fort St. Louis. There they meet the rest of the survivors including the Talon family. All the while, Nick, Hannah, and Jackie are searching for the items that will help them get back to their own time.
The three friends soon find themselves experiencing the life of the colony. They work hard to help each other and the French men and women. They meet La Salle, Henri Joutel and the others. They have to deal with snakes, alligators, Karankawa Indians, cooking, tending the pigs, minding the baby, hunting buffalo, and more. Hannah and the others soon realize that life was certainly not less complicated in the past. “The past,” says Hannah before returning to the present, “is a gift for those who learn from it” (154).
This adventure is the most exciting and mesmerizing of the series so far. The timeline, cast of characters, glossary, French to English translation, illustrations, and maps all give the reader a deeper understanding of the story and the characters. It is Cuate’s writing, though, that draws the reader into the story of our past in such a thrilling way as to captivate the interest of any student of Texas history. This reader, for one, is, as before, anxiously awaiting the next installment of this series and the next field trip into the fascinating history of Texas.