When you are analyzing historical fiction, there are four main points to consider: the use of language (Was it appropriate to the time?), details of everyday life, faithfulness to the historic record (real people and places), and the reader's perception (Would you believe the story as true?).

For this webquest, you will be focusing on one main point: the faithfulness to the historic record. To do this, you will be carefully researching both setting and characterization, as Jennifer Holm used real people and places to bring Boston Jane to life.

As you progress through the tasks, visit the web sites that are provided to gather information, or search out your own information. You may wish to use sources that are not online, so don't be afraid to ask the librarian for some useful books or information!

As you begin to look at a web site, ask yourself these questions:

*What information does this web site have? What specific details does it tell me?

*How is the information on this web site similar or different to what I read in Boston Jane (in terms of setting or character)?

*With the information that I have learned, do I still believe Holm's settings and characters are accurately described? (Remember, her book is still historical fiction, so not everything has to be perfect!)

*What connections am I finding between Boston Jane and the historical resources?

As you take notes, use either a notebook page or a notecard to keep track of the information you have collected. The samples you should model your notes on are here.

Task 1: Investigating Shoalwater Bay


Image © The Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History

An oyster boat on Shoalwater Bay in 1890. In Boston Jane, Mr. Swan had only a canoe to gather oysters from the bay.

Most of Boston Jane's action is set in Shoalwater Bay, Washington, the frontier settlement that Jane expects to meet William at to get married.

Setting is an important component of historical fiction, as it involves staying faithful to the historical record.

Shoalwater Bay (now known as Willapa Bay) was a real place during the 1850s, and in this task it is your turn to take on the role of a researcher by gathering information about Shoalwater Bay.

First, gather some information about Shoalwater Bay. Some questions to ask are listed below, but you will want to think about the geographical features, the people living there, and how the settlement was started.

After you have some background knowledge about Shoalwater Bay, it's time to think about Boston Jane. How was Shoalwater Bay represented in the book? Why do you believe this setting for Boston Jane, or if you don't, why not? Other questions to think about are listed, but you may have your own.

Where do I look?
Although you may wish to search out your own resources, here are some links that will get you started

A brief history of Willapa Bay

Pacific County in the 1850s

Pacific County - a short history

Geography of Washington
(Look to the Pacific Northwest/Coastline area)

"Shoalwater Bay oysters begin feeding
San Francisco in 1851"

An article by Virginia Story

For a challenge, check out this primary resource:

Oystering on Willapa Bay by L.L. Bush


Questions to consider:
(These are only examples - you may think of more!)

Information Gathering:

*What are the geographic features?
*Who inhabited the area?
*What was the purpose for Shoalwater Bay?
*When was Shoalwater Bay founded?

Making Connections:

*How was Shoalwater Bay described in the book?
*Which features of Shoalwater Bay were similar in the book and in your research? Different? Why do you think that is?
*Why would you believe Shoalwater Bay as a realistic setting for Boston Jane?

It will be helpful to you if, after compiling your notes with your group members, writing a journal entry in your notebook with your "Making Connections" thoughts. Use the questions above for guidance, but also think of other connections you can make from your specific research. You have all the information - think of how you can use it!

Remember to save your note pages or note cards in a place where you can always find them, such as a folder specific to this task. Ask your teacher if you don't have an extra folder to keep things.

Now that you have a good understanding of setting and its importance to historical fiction, and have made connections between the historical research and the fictional story, it's time to move on to the next task! Click on the photo below to continue your quest.

Image courtesy of The U.S. Historical Archive

Native Americans canoe in to the shore of Shoalwater Bay. Canoes were the major form of water transportation by the Chinook and frontier men and women who lived in Shoalwater Bay.

Home | Task 1 | Task 2 | Task 3 | Multi-Genre Paper | Assessment

Questions? Contact r-tjaden@cornellcollege.edu.