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Cover image for Cabin on Trouble Creek
Cabin on Trouble Creek

Publication Information:
New York : Dial Books for Young Readers, ©2004.
Physical Description:
219 pages ; 22 cm
In 1803 in Ohio, two young brothers are left to finish the log cabin and guard the land while their father goes back to Pennsylvania to fetch their mother and younger siblings.


Call Number

On Order



Wolves, bears, and a heavy snowstorm are just some of the dangers that Daniel and Will must face-alone. It's 1803, and the boys and their father have recently arrived in Ohio , following the promise of rich farmland.  After clearing enough forest to build a log cabin, Pa sets off for Pennsylvania to fetch the rest of the family, while eleven-year-old Daniel and nine-year-old Will stay behind to watch the land. Pa had planned to return within five or six weeks . . . but something must have gone terribly wrong. Now the boys must survive the winter with only an axe, two knives, a sack of cornmeal, and-most important of all-their ability to invent and improvise. But are they truly alone in the woods? Daniel thinks that someone is watching them . . . Jean Van Leeuwen's engrossing novel of pioneer survival is based on a true incident. Readers, especially boys, will be fascinated by the struggles and triumphs of these brave young characters.  

Author Notes

Jean Van Leeuwen was born in Rutherford, New Jersey on December 26, 1937. She received a bachelor's degree in journalism from Syracuse University. Before becoming a full-time author, she worked in the children's book department of a publisher. She is the author of more than 50 books including Timothy's Flower, Bound for Oregon, and the Oliver and Amanda series.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-7-Van Leeuwen brings the excitement and danger of life on the frontier vibrantly to life. Daniel, 11, Will, 9, and their father travel to Ohio in 1803 to claim their new land. After hastily building a cabin, Pa returns home to Pennsylvania to fetch Ma and the younger children, intending to come back five or six weeks later. The boys first treat their time alone as an adventure, exploring the woods and fishing in the creek. However, as the weeks stretch into months with still no sign of their parents, the brothers must shift their focus to withstanding the winter. Luckily, a Native American trapper notices them and teaches them some basic survival skills. Still, as snow piles up around them, the youngsters realize how fierce the outdoors can be. Excellent pacing is what makes this novel work so well. From an action-packed beginning to the challenges of a difficult winter, the suspense builds consistently. The boys' struggle is portrayed realistically, without sugarcoating nature's harshness. Daniel and Will also grow and mature as they learn to rely on themselves, their wits, and one another. Not only is this a relevant tie-in to frontier studies, but it is also a good story.-Kristen Oravec, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Strongsville, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Horn Book Review

In 1803, young brothers Daniel and Will remain on their newly settled homestead in the Ohio wilderness while Pa returns East for the rest of the family. Left alone for an unexpectedly long ten months, the brothers meet a helpful Lenape Indian, survive a blizzard, and face a bear attack. Based on an actual incident, this is a solid historical novel. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

Trouble Creek was the site of a massacre ten years before. Now, 11-year-old Daniel and his younger brother Will are left there all alone to finish a cabin while their father returns to Pennsylvania for the rest of the family. Ohio in 1803 was one big forest, and Van Leeuwen effectively captures its various moods--claustrophobic, lonely, scary, and exciting. When Pa doesn't return and the boys spend the whole winter there, the story becomes a tale of survival, the boys relying on their own instincts and the help of Solomon, an Indian passing through. He teaches them about snares and traps, poisonous and healing plants, and especially how to really see--how to stay alert to the dangers and the promise of the forest. Based on a true incident, this is a fine story of wilderness, family, absence, and new strengths found. It works as both a solid historical novel and as an exciting survival tale. (author's note) (Fiction. 9-12) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Gr. 5-7. Daniel, almost 12, and 9-year-old Will are on their own after Pa leaves Ohio to go back to Pennsylvania to fetch Ma and the rest of the children. The boys have only an axe and two knives to chop wood and defend themselves if necessary. Trouble Creek provides them water, but there's barely enough food to last the five or six weeks before Pa and the family return. An old Indian shows up and teaches the boys how to set snares and to look close at the natural world, a talent that serves them well as the bitter winter closes in, and the boys, who are still alone, must construct snowshoes from branches, coats from a blanket, and rabbit fur hats and gloves. The boys' resilience is believable, as is their relationship, and the story, based on an actual incident that occurred in 1803, is a dynamic picture of survival in the wilderness. Fans of Gary Paulsen's living-on-the-edge adventures will be well pleased. --Sally Estes Copyright 2004 Booklist