"An entertaining tale"
‘The Black Alabaster Box’ by Frances Schoonmaker is the first of ‘The Last Crystal Trilogy’, a historical fiction and fantasy story set in the American frontier era. We follow Grace Willis as she struggles to come to terms with her family’s move from St. Louis through the Santa Fe Trail to California so her parents can provide medical care. An old friend in the form of a black and white sheep dog appears to help Grace and is there throughout the highs and lows of the journey.
The author has done a brilliant job at creating a sense of time and place. Although there is a fantasy element, there’s so many little details about life, the journey on the Santa Fe Trail and even scouting and tracking tips that showed how much thought and research the author put into this book. Even with all this detail the storyline moves quickly which I think will keep young readers curious about what’s happening and what could happen next. I also liked that although this is a children’s story, it doesn’t shy away from loss and sadness, using it to drive the narrative on and impact on the characters’ behaviours.
I think that ‘The Black Alabaster Box’ is an entertaining tale bound to inspire more questions about American history as well as the plot of the rest of the trilogy.