Two Authors on Co-writing Wagons Ho!

We asked Joan Holub and George Hallowell, co-authors of Wagons Ho!, to write about the experience of working together on the book. This is their first book together.

AW: So, what’s this book about, co-authors?

George Hallowell: Two girls, who never meet, move west from Missouri to Oregon on the Oregon Trail. One trip takes 5 months in 1846 and the other takes 5 days in modern times. One trip is in a covered wagon, the other in a car. There are losses—they will each miss their homes and things they have to leave behind. Both girls suffer hardships, not the least of which are annoying younger brothers. But there are joys as well—berry pies, fun, and Fourth of July celebrations. Along the way, both girls stop at well-known landmarks and travel the Rocky Mountains. And when each girl reaches her new home, she finds new wonders and new friends.

Joan Holub: I love that it’s written and illustrated in an informative, humorous comic book style. It makes the history aspect so much more accessible to kids.

AW: Where did the idea come for Wagons Ho! come from?

From George’s amazing brain. He’s got a wealth of historical trivia in there rolling around. An architect who’s currently working on his PhD, he has traveled extensively to lots of historical sites and has been to a gazillion museums.

George: I got the idea a long time ago when I realized that it took five months to make the trip from Missouri to Oregon on the Oregon Trail in the 1800s; and it takes five days to make it by car today. It was an interesting parallel. I mapped it out by months vs. days and realized you’d hit the same important landmarks on each trip—Fort Laramie,  Independence Rock, the Rocky Mountains, etc. I’ve made the trek along the entire Oregon Trail. I did it in sections and by different means of transportation: biking, hiking, in a covered wagon, by boat, and by car.

AW: What’s the most important ingredient in a successful collaboration?

Finding the right co-author. Lots of people have an idea for a book, but as I learned in the writing of Wagons Ho!–it’s not that easy to create an engaging book with a beginning, middle, and satisfying end. But it’s fun!

Joan: I think the most important thing for me was that I knew what I was getting into with George. We’ve known each other forever, and I knew he was a good researcher with a passion for history and geography. Traveling the Oregon trail was bumpy, and so was writing this book at times, but we were able to talk frankly about what was working and what wasn’t as we went along. When I first heard George’s idea, I loved it, and we worked equally hard to make this book fulfill George’s original vision. And we are still great friends at the end of the trail.

AW: Did you have any say in who illustrated the book?

Joan: Authors rarely have any say in the choosing of an artist. We lucked out getting Lynne Avril (Amelia Bedelia’s First Day of School; Every Cowgirl Needs A Horse) to sign on as the illustrator. She was really into the project and made this book come alive. She and I spoke by phone about the art, and her enthusiasm fueled mine even more. We had worked together before (The Pizza That We Made; Light the Candles), but this was the first chance I’d had to actually speak to her.

George: I think the comic book style was the perfect way to go with Wagons Ho! It served the book well because it caused us to narrow the focus and become selective on which aspects of the trip to highlight. I really love the humor in this book. I mean, history can be funny as well as informative, right?

George & Joan: Thank you, Albert Whitman, for giving us the opportunity to talk about Wagons Ho! today. We hope readers enjoy the book! Visit us at

Wagons Ho!
By George Hallowell and Joan Holub
Illustrated by Lynne Avril
Albert Whitman & Company
ISBN: 978-0807586129
Ages 6-10

Two Authors on Co-writing Wagons Ho!