Cover image for Wagon wheels
Wagon wheels
Brenner, Barbara.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Harper and Row, [1978]

Shortly after the Civil War a black family travels to Kansas to take advantage of the free land offered through the Homestead Act.
Reading Level:
380 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 2.6 0.5 27476.

Reading Counts RC K-2 2.9 2 Quiz: 12169 Guided reading level: K.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
READER Juvenile Fiction Readers
READER Juvenile Fiction Readers
READER Juvenile Fiction Readers
READER Juvenile Fiction Readers

On Order



A young African-American boy describes the wilderness adventures of his pioneering family in Kansas in the 1870s. 'It is remarkable that a writer can convey an accurate sense of historical time and place while telling a warm, realistic (and factual) story to primary graders. Recommended for middle graders with reading difficulties as well as for younger children.' --BL.

Notable Children's Books of 1978 (ALA)
A Reading Rainbow Selection
Notable 1978 Children's Trade Books in Social Studies (NCSS/CBC)

Author Notes

Barbara Brenner was born on June 26, 1925, in Brooklyn, New York. Brenner attended Seton Hall College and Rutgers University from 1942-46, while also working as a copy editor at Prudential Insurance Company. Her freelance work as an artist's agent prepared her for a literary life. In 1957 she published her first book, Somebody's Slippers, Somebody's Shoes. She followed this book with an educational picture book entitled Barto Takes the Subway, designed to improve reading comprehension and sight vocabulary.

Her artistic development continued when she began to collaborate with her husband, illustrator Fred Brenner, on The Flying Patchwork Quilt. Her next book, On the Frontier with Mr. Audubon, was selected by School Library Journal as The Best of the Best among children's books published over 26 seasons. One of her bestselling titles was Wagon Wheels (published in 1978), which deals with the trials and tribulations of a close-knit African American family. In 1986, Brenner was honored with the Pennsylvania School Librarians' Association's Outstanding Pennsylvania Author Award. Brenner's most celebrated book is a collection entitled Voices: Poetry and Art from around the World, for which she was chief editor. This book received an ALA Notable Book for Children mention and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults award.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Gr. 1-3. Based on a true account, this story centers on a black family who homesteads in Kansas after the Civil War. Facing starvation and Indian threats, Mr. Muldie moves ahead leaving his three young sons in charge until he can send for them.

School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 3-In 1878, the three Muldie brother-ages eleven, eight, and three-and their father travel from Kentucky to Nicodemus, Kansas. Living in a dugout like the other black pioneer families, they endure hunger and hardships before spring comes. Ed Muldie leaves the boys to take care of each other while he looks for a better homestead further west. They hunt, fish, and stay in the dugout until their father's letter arrives months later with a rough map. Following the Solomon River, they make the 150-mile journey. Their courage and resourcefulness keep them safe and bring them to their father. Based on actual events, Barbara Brenner's tale (Harper, 1978) is told by Johnny, the oldest boy. Steven Michael Harper gives all the characters distinctive voices. His slow, expressive reading gives weight to the simple sentences of the text and allows youngsters to follow along. Sound effects-prairie winds, water in the creek bed, the sound of horses, and banjo music-all make life on the Kansas prairie very real. Page-turn signals are optional. This exceptionally fine production raises a significant piece of historical fiction to a very high level.-Mary Jean Smith, Southside Elementary School, Lebanon, TN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Chapter I The Dugoutp. 7
Chapter II Indiansp. 19
Chapter III Moving onp. 30
Chapter IV The Letterp. 44