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Illus. in black-and-white. In 1851, 12-year-old orphan Austin Ives joins a wagon train headed for California. As they make their way across the country, Austin writes home to his brother Levi, describing day-to-day life on the Overland Trail. In his own observant and vigorous voice, Austin tells of the everyday happenings--hunting game and fording streams--as well as more dramatic episodes, from devastating illness to complex encounters with Indians.