Blog Tour: Sweet Home Alaska by Carole Estby Dagg

Between The Lines is a sporadic feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which authors and other industry professionals provide further insight into the writing and publishing process in the form of interviews, guest posts, etc. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy as we read between the lines.

Hi everyone! Well, Pop! Goes The Reader is back – with a fancy new look, too! – and I can think of no better way to celebrate than by featuring one of my most-anticipated 2016 middle grade titles, Sweet Home Alaska by Carole Estby Dagg. Available tomorrow from online retailers and a bookstore near you, Sweet Home Alaska is a historical fiction novel perfect for fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series. The book follows the adventures of Terpsichore Johnson and her family as they travel in search of new opportunities and a new life during the Great Depression, eventually settling in Alaska to take part in President Roosevelt’s Matanuska Colony project.

Regular readers of the blog might remember that I featured this book a number of months ago and, having been lucky enough to receive a finished copy from Penguin U.S., can report that it has absolutely lived up to my expectations. I’m currently reading the novel as we speak and am thoroughly enjoying every second. Today, author Carole Estby Dagg was kind enough to agree to stop by Pop! Goes The Reader to tell us a little more about Terpsichore’s story and what inspired it.


About Carole Estby Dagg

After careers as a children’s librarian, certified public accountant, and assistant library director, I retired early to do what I had always wanted to do: write. My first book, The Year We Were Famous, was based on the true story of my great-aunt’s 4,000-mile walk with her mother across the country in 1896.

My second book, Sweet Home Alaska, was inspired when my son bought a 1930’s house across from a potato field in Palmer, Alaska. Following my curiosity about the early days of Palmer, I eventually had a banker’s box full of notes, enough for a book.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterGoodreads


When my son moved from Anchorage to Palmer, Alaska, he bought a rustic 1930’s house next to a potato field. As I followed my curiosity about the early settlement in Palmer, I was astonished to discover accounts of a New Deal program that took two hundred and two families off relief and shipped them north to Alaska to become self-sufficient farmers.

When I read old-timers’ accounts of their childhoods in the first years of Palmer Colony, I realized their experience was a little like Laura Ingalls Wilder’s…but in the 20th century. Coincidentally, the first Little House books came out in the early 1930’s, so a child of the colony would have been part of the first generation of children to enjoy Wilder’s books.

Those recollections included plenty of real-life drama. Their ship to Seward encountered the worst seas the captain of the St. Miheil had ever seen in that part of the world, several children died in the first weeks of tent living in Palmer, and shipments of supplies from Seattle were haphazard. Plumbing fixtures arrived when they had no sinks or running water, a boxcar of electric meat slicers arrived when the colonists had no electricity, horses arrived without carts, and another boxcar arrived with a load of paper towels when they were still waiting for hammers. Mismanagement left some families still in tents as the first snow fell.

You’d think that with mud, mosquitoes and living in tents in the snow, colonists would have unhappy memories of the early days of Palmer, but most of the people that historians interviewed remembered their childhoods as a happy time.

Since curious journalists came north to take pictures and write magazine and newspaper articles, I had lots of resources to fuel my imagination. Even Will Rogers, the most popular movie actor of his time, and Wiley Post, flying ace, came to see the colony for themselves.

I eventually had a banker’s box full of notes on everything from insects in Alaska to the history of stage productions of The Wizard of Oz. I supplemented that research with a dozen original Associated Press photographs that I bought on eBay. Sometimes I got more than I thought I would. In one case, looking at a tiny image on the computer, I thought I was buying a photo of children gathered around a garden plot. When I got the full-sized original photo, I realized it was a photo of children around a tiny grave. That photo sparked a whole chapter.

I had enough information for a book, but who should tell the story?  I made up Terpsichore Johnson and her friends to combine experiences of the real children who came north with their families in 1935. My Terpsichore was excited about moving from Wisconsin to Alaska, where she could be a real-life pioneer just like her favorite author, Laura Ingalls Wilder. She came to love her new home in Alaska, but how could she convince her mother to stay? She developed a plan that involved a giant pumpkin and a recipe for Jellied Moose Nose.

Title Sweet Home Alaska
Author Carole Estby Dagg
Pages 304 Pages
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
Genre Historical Fiction, Adventure
To Be Published February 2nd 2016 by Nancy Paulsen Books
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChapters

Terpsichore and her family are going to be pioneers in Alaska! Times have been tough in Wisconsin during the Great Depression, and she’s eager to make a new start. Terpsichore often dreams about living like Laura Ingalls Wilder, but the reality of their new home is a shock. The town is still under construction, the mosquitos are huge, and when a mouse eats her shoelace, causing her to fall on her first day of school, everyone learns the nickname she had hoped to leave behind: Trip.

Despite all this, Terpsichore falls in love with Alaska – and her sparkling, can-do spirit is a perfect match for the wilderness. When she discovers there is no library, she helps start one, and with the aid of the long hours of summer sunshine, she’s able to grow killer vegetables. With all these achievements, Terpsichore is sure she’ll be earning a new nickname in no time! The only problem is her homesick mom, who misses polite society. Terpsichore is determined to stay put, so she hatches a plan to convince her mother that Alaska can be a wonderful, civilized home…a plan that’s going to take all the love, energy, and Farmer Boy expertise she can muster.

This unique story, based on Alaska’s real-life Palmer Colony, introduces a fascinating chapter in American history. Lively storytelling chock-full of details of the pioneering life will engage and entertain readers, who will be charmed by the intrepid Terpsichore.

6 responses to “Blog Tour: Sweet Home Alaska by Carole Estby Dagg”

  1. Kathleen says:

    Love your site’s new look :). I enjoyed reading about Carole’s inspiration and research. I am looking forward to reading SWEET HOME ALASKA. It is an event I had not heard of until her book.

  2. Ashley says:

    In no surprise, I am in love with your new layout. It is SO you. <33

    Also. I am here for this book. It sounds very Ashley.
    Ashley recently posted…Throne of Glass by Sarah J. MaasMy Profile

  3. Thanks for inviting me to your bright, redesigned website!

  4. Jana says:

    LOVE the new design. I loved this book. Such a cute story! And I learned something new! I had no idea there was a program like this in the 30’s!
    Jana recently posted…Weekend Reading #8My Profile

  5. Brenda says:

    I’m a recent follower of your blog and just love the design. Thank you for putting Sweet Home Alaska on my radar with your author post.

  6. Chasia Lloyd says:

    This site redesign is so beautiful! Sweet Home Alaska sounds wonderful too. 🙂
    Chasia Lloyd recently posted…F/February 1 – Unicorn Tracks by Julia EmberMy Profile

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