Historical Fiction v. Historical Document: An 8 year-old’s Perspective

I read this book the summer after 2nd grade and I didn’t realize that it was fiction because I was under the impression that scholastic “discovered” girls diaries and then edited and published them (to be fair the series only had like 5 books then instead of 30 so this seemed much more plausible). Not to mention the fact that the author’s name was NOT on the cover–a first for me.

The Item In Question:

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Anyway, long story short I sent a letter to Scholastic asking if they had any information on “Hattie Campbell” from the book because we shared the same family name and I was curious if we might possibly be from the same lineage. To further compound the confusion, I actually had a relative named Hattie and a relative named Wade (just like two of the main characters in the book). Any actual understanding of genealogy, however, would have told me that even if this wasn’t a work of fiction they could not have been connected to MY Wade and Hattie, but then again I was eight.

Of course, no one in my family at all deterred me from doing this. In fact, they encouraged me. My parents were probably too excited that their eight year-old wanted to write to a publisher to explain to me the difference between fictitious diaries and historical documents. And then like a year later I saw the disclaimer at the back of the book saying that it’s a work of fiction and I was totally and utterly embarrassed because I had written to a major publishing company “on Broadway!” nonetheless.

Finally, I had the explanation for why I had never received a response to my inquiry. They never ever wrote me back even to break it to me gently that there was no actual Hattie Campbell. In my adult years, I feel like that was unfair because it is a children’s publishing company and if there is a child who is trying to research her family’s roots then you at least owe her the courtesy of telling her that she might want to try some public records. I don’t care to listen to reason or consider the fact that they may have been inundated with actual businessĀ correspondence. I’d like to think that I would never be too busy to drop a quick note to a confused child who mistakenly believed a book my company published somehow linked back to her ancestor. I’m grateful for the experience though because it makes for a fun story. It was always one of my favorite books growing up and I absolutely cherish to this day, so when I found this hellogiggles article it was totally fun to see the book again!

If you’d like to relieve your childhood reading days, check out “A 20-something Rereads ‘Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie’ by Heather Taylor here: