Key City on the River

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An inspiring Hi-Lo story for emerging readers from the Gemma Open Door Series.

On a cold November afternoon in 1833, two wagons cross the dark Mississippi River into the Iowa Territory on a tiny ferryboat. Its passengers are full of questions. Aunt Sunday just wants to know if they’re going to drown. Jonathan and Ella Butterman wonder if they will find success in their new home. And Penny Cooper and Nate Tilden are eager to learn if they will be able to live as free people. 

They survive the crossing and settle in Key City. There isn’t much to the town aside from a few log cabins and small buildings in a forest clearing. There are also very rough, very tough residents, including some who hate people with dark skin. Aunt Sunday, Penny, and Nate were slaves in Kentucky not a year before. What will the Iowa Territory decide on the question of owning human beings? No one yet knows. Based on the history of a real place, Key City on the River explores what it means to start a new life in a new land full of new opportunities.


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