Wilmettie is the story of a 12-year-old girl who travels with her family by covered wagon from West Texas to New Mexico Territory in 1905. Wilmettie is uprooted from her comfortable life on Grandmother Nell’s cotton farm when her stepfather decides to follow his dream and claim a homestead of his own. The journey is fraught with sickness, despair, and dangerous situations―a runaway horse, a rattlesnake encounter, and a treacherous river crossing in which the baby falls into the water.

Along the way, Wilmettie comes across people and cultures different than her own. She witnesses a robbery and later advocates for the accused boy even though he has bullied her. How will Wilmettie adjust to her new home?

Published by Texas Tech University Press, 2020.


Women Writing the West named Wilmettie a 2021 WILLA Literary Award Finalist for Children’s Fiction and Nonfiction. Some comments from the judges:

“Although not happy with the move, a young girl and her family move to the New Mexico Territory. Despite hardships along the way, she becomes stronger and learns to appreciate her family, their struggles, and her new home.”

“Loved the coziness of this book. I felt part of Wilmettie’s spirit as she faced adversity, diversity, and challenges that showed her true pioneer heart and justice.”

“There is so much to like about this story. Prevailing racist views of the time are acknowledged, but the people gain experiences that help them change their views. Wilmettie’s characters are multi-layered and allowed to grow from small minded or selfish to more caring and understanding.”

In the 2021 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards, Wilmettie tied for First Place in the Juvenile category and was a Finalist in the Fiction New Mexico Historical category.

Read about Wilmettie in the Albuquerque Journal:

The author crafts scenes with the right doses of tension and descriptions of hardship that hold the interest of young readers.

Johnna Scalia’s black-and-white illustrations and the earth tones of the cover of “Wilmettie” heighten the austerity of turn-of-the-century life in the Southwest that Houser’s words convey.

:: David Steinberg, Albuquerque Journal