Meet Carole Estby Dagg

I’m delighted to welcome author Carole Estby Dagg to Sites and Stories.  She’s written two books about topics that fascinate me, so we must be kindred souls!

Her new book is Sweet Home Alaska:

Terpsichore has dreamed about becoming a pioneer like Laura Ingalls Wilder, and now, with only two days to pack, her family is joining 201 other families on the way to Alaska. Most of her family comes to love Alaska, but her mother misses life back in Wisconsin. What can Terpsichore do to convince her mother to stay? Inspired by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy, she develops a plan that includes a giant pumpkin and a recipe for jellied moose nose.

* * *

My favorite thing about Kathleen’s blog is the behind-the-scenes look she gives readers into her research process, so today I’m sharing some photographs that inspired settings and scenes for my book, Sweet Home Alaska.

Woman at pump – Date stamp June 27, 1935  Associated Press Photo

Palmer woman at pump jpeg

You’d probably guess that this photo was taken during the Great Depression, but would you have guessed that it was taken in Palmer Alaska?  Until my son bought a rustic house in Palmer next to a potato field out the outskirts of Palmer, I never knew that one of President Roosevelt’s New Deal programs moved 202 families that were on relief up to Alaska to become self-sufficient farmers.

Tent city – Citation: AMRC b70-19-106  J. J. Delaney Collection; Anchorage Museum

Palmer tent city B1970_019_106

Since there are only a few rows of tents in this picture, it must have been taken just after the first batch of colonists arrived from northern Minnesota. Two weeks later the second batch of colonists arrived from Wisconsin and Michigan. This photo helped me ground the chapters that took place after the colonists arrived in Palmer.

Children around grave  – Date stamp: July 1, 1935

Palmer grave jpeg

From the postage stamp-sized photo on eBay, I thought I was buying a photo of four children around a garden plot, but when I received the larger original, I realized that the photo was of four children bringing flowers to a tiny grave, one of the first in the new colony.

Teacher with five children in nearly identical parkas – Associated Press Photo dated Nov. 19, 1935

Palmer parka kids w teacher

The teacher in this photograph, Miss Lorinda Ward, came to Alaska from Columbia University. She would have been housed in a two-story white dormitory that still stands today. In rural areas like Palmer, families all ordered from the same Sears or Montgomery Ward catalogs, so it wasn’t unusual to see kids dressed alike.

Carole is a retired librarian and author of The Year We Were Famous (Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011) and Sweet Home Alaska (Nancy Paulsen imprint of Penguin Books for Young Readers, 2016.) She writes in Everett, Washington and a converted woodshed on San Juan Island, where she is visited by deer and the neighbor’s goats.

Visit her at

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4 Responses to “Meet Carole Estby Dagg”

  1. caroleestbydagg Says:

    Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog, Kathleen – yes, we are kindred spirits!

  2. M.I.L.K. Says:

    I would love to know that teacher’s story, too! She has such a smile!

  3. QNPoohBear Says:

    I liked The Year We Were Famous, a story I was familiar with from the books by Linda Lawrence Hunt. If you want to an idea of what may have happened next, look for The Daughter’s Walk by Jane Kirkpatrick. I am intrigued by this new story. I put a hold on it at the library.

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