I Walked to Zion by Susan Arrington Madsen (Deseret Book, 1994) is a delightful collection of first person accounts of Mormon pioneers who traveled across the American Great Plains to Utah from the late 1840s to 1860s. Although the volume is probably intended for adults to read, the engaging and interesting stories of the pioneers have such detail and provide interest so that even very young children would appreciate hearing the stories.
Each passage has been excerpted from their own accounts (most of which were recorded in their old age), and recount what life was like on the trail, what adventures and difficulties they encountered, and the things they encountered that may have helped them later in their life. Crossing the plains on foot (for most of the youngest did not ride!) was certainly not a feat for the weak!
I was most interested in the accounts from those that traeled quite young. One of the girls who shared her story was only about 3 years old when she crossed the plains. In her account, she is able to remember the emotions and the feelings as she waited for her turn for a sip of water, for example.
I have often wondered how young children kept up with such a difficult life. I myself struggle to comprehend walking 1000+ miles, even if spread out over a few months. My own young children certainly complain enough these days!
But in reality, the journey across the plains was simply another step in their difficult lives. While obviously it was a memorable experience for the children whose stories are told in I Walked to Zion, it is also equally obvious that their faith, hope for the future, child-like optimism, and innocence kept them rather carefree. Pioneer children must have sung as they walked, for children everywhere often manage to find the glorious even in the mundane and difficult.