‘Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Donner Dinner Party,’ Tells the Dark Pioneer Story of Cannibalism and Starvation in a Kid-Friendly Graphic Novel Format

Nathan Hale is a daring author to tackle a topic as disturbing and disastrous as the Donner Party quest in 1846. To present the information in a lively, page turning graphic novel format is remarkable. Part of what makes the Donner story one that stands out in American history is that almost half, over 40 people, died in the journey. Some died from starvation and natural causes but many were cannibalized by their own families and neighbors.

Hale finds a way to tell the story honestly, without talking down to young readers. This is the third book in his Hazardous Tales series and part of what makes them successful is the trio of narrators. They serve as a Greek chorus to the serious subject matter. Another great tool that Hale utilizes are additive illustrations. Besides the traditional graphic novel frames, Hale also inserts interesting charts of the families, their supplies, maps and perhaps the most effective chart is the one that shows each member of the party with a symbol for how they died (if they died on the journey).

Donner Dinner Party can be used as a tool to teach the pioneer movement, American history in the 1800s or can be shared as a compelling story for reluctant readers.

My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2013
ISBN: 9781419708565
Page Count: 128 pages
Publisher: Amulet Books

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