The Big Sky


Author:  A.B. Guthrie, Jr.

Title:  The Big Sky

Genre:  Western

Publication Date:  1947

Number of Pages:  386

Geographical Setting: The American Frontier

Time Period:  1830 – 1843

Series:  The “Big Sky” Series

Plot Summary:  The Big Sky, the first novel in A.B. Guthrie’s series about the American frontier, follows Boone Caudill from adolescence to adulthood, through Kentucky to St. Louis and up the Missouri river to the wild openness of the American plains.  Boone’s dreams of bigness, distance, wildness and freedom lure him west with Jim Deakins and Dick Summers.  As the men hunt, trap, and trade valuable beaver fur, they learn the ways of Indians.  However, harshness and violence take their toll on Boone.  Boone’s powerful love for big wild places leads him to believe that self-reliance, courage and ruthlessness are traits of true mountain men.  Savagery, though, begins to overwhelm Boone, as his nobility slips away.

Subject Headings:  Frontier and pioneer life – The West (United States), Western stories, Indians of North America, Mountain men

Appeal:  compelling, deliberate, multiple points of view, strong secondary characters, episodic storyline, detailed setting, historical details, strong language, gritty, nostalgic, descriptive, vivid

3 terms that best describe this book: wild, rugged, authentic

Similar Authors and Works:


Give Your Heart to the Hawks: A Tribute to the Mountain Men by Win Blevins (chronicles the adventures of the “first westerners,” including Kit Carson, Jedediah Smith, John Colter and Hugh Glass, who, like Boone Caudill chose to live free in the Rocky Mountains)

Osborne Russell’s Journal of a Trapper and maps of his travels in the Rocky Mountains by Osborne Russell (narrative written by a Rocky Mountain trapper and trader when the American fur trade was at its peak, 1834-1843; parallels the lives of Boone, Jim Deakins and Dick Summers)

Across the Wide Missouri by Bernard DeVoto (examines the rise and fall of the fur empires in the 1830s, detailing major expeditions as well as the day to day life of America’s mountain men; additionally, Guthrie and DeVoto were friends)


Mountain Man: A Novel of Male and Female in the Early American West by Vardis Fisher (follows the life of a man much like Boone Caudill: Sam Minard, a mountain man bent on survival and self-government living in the Rocky Mountains)

Where the Rivers Run North by Sam Morton (a beautifully descriptive work of historical fiction focusing on the horses of Montana and Wyoming; appeals to fans of Guthrie’s narrative and scenic vividness)

The Lone War Cry: A Western Novel by George Miller (Blackfoot, Shoshone and Crow tribes struggle with the encroaching white man to protect the yet “untamed” Oregon Territories; a perspective different from Boone’s is offered as tribes encounter encroaching white men moving west into their territory)

Name: Elizabeth


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