Dear America Wiki
Dear America Wiki

"'One spark in the right place, and whoosh!' The cabbie snapped his fingers. 'The entire city could go up in flames. If you ask me, but nobody ever does, we're sitting in a tinderbox.'"
—An ominous prediction[2]

Down the Rabbit Hole: The Diary of Pringle Rose is a historical fiction book written by Susan Campbell Bartoletti. It is the forty-second book in Scholastic's Dear America series. The book was published in March 2013 with Judy Blundell's A City Tossed and Broken.

After her parents' deaths, Pringle Rose runs away to Chicago with her younger brother, Gideon, in tow. Unexpected events follow, including the Great Chicago Fire.


"In memory of Sal Angelo (1947—2010), an exceptional person in every sense of the word"

Book description[]

"My name is Pringle. This is my story....
In the spring of 1871, fourteen-year-old Pringle Rose learns that her parents have been killed in a terrible carriage accident. Shortly afterward, her uncle Edward and his awful wife, Adeline, move into Pringle's home—making life for her and her younger brother, Gideon, unbearable. Pringle runs away with Gideon to Chicago, seeking refuge from the tragedy and hoping to start a new life. However, she quickly finds herself caught up in a web of intrigue and lies. And when a familiar figure from back home arrives, Pringle begins to piece together the devastating mystery of what happened to her parents and realizes just how deadly the truth might be. But soon, one of the worst disasters this country has ever known—the Great Fire of Chicago—flares up, and Pringle is on the run for her life.


Pringle Rose is the daughter of a wealthy mine owner. In April 1871, she loses her father and mother in a tragic carriage accident. Her brother, Gideon, who survived the crash, has not spoken a word since. Their uncle Edward is appointed guardian, and moves into their house with his wife Adeline and daughter Ellen. Pringle's aunt is extremely strict with her and Gideon, but overindulges Ellen. She is particularly cruel to Gideon, whom she is prejudiced towards due to him having Down syndrome.

Adeline plans to send Gideon away to a school for children like him. The housekeeper Mrs. Goodwin warns Pringle about the risks of sending Gideon to such a school. Pringle decides to run away with her brother to Chicago. She plans to find her mother's best friend, Beatrice Ringwald, there. On the train to Chicago, Pringle records her plight in a diary. She befriends a fellow passenger Gwen Pritchard, who has a hard time wrangling her three children, Adam, Lucy, and Sallie. Along the way, Gideon starts to speak again and becomes friends with Adam.

Near their destination, a bent axle causes their train car to disengage and fall over. Pringle and Gideon are safe, but they lose their cat Mozie. They soon reach Beatrice's house in Chicago, where they learn she has been placed in a sanitarium. Nowhere else to go, Pringle asks Gwen and her husband Peter for a place to stay. The Pritchards welcome them into their house and hire Pringle as a nursemaid for their children. Peter, a union organizer, has Gideon do odd jobs around his office.

Gwen begins preparing for the arrival of her younger brother, Cager. When he arrives in October, he turns out to be a boy Pringle knew as "Rabbit". Gideon runs away upon seeing him. This sparks a thought in Pringle's head, and she demands to know if Cager was involved in her parents' deaths. She leaves immediately, when he confirms it. As the Great Chicago Fire rages, Pringle desperately searches for Gideon. The next morning, she finally finds him at Peter's office. They then board a train to San Francisco.


Historical Note[]


Main article: List of Down the Rabbit Hole characters
  • Priscilla "Pringle" Rose, the daughter of a mine owner. Following her parents' deaths, Pringle lives with aunt and uncle. She eventually decides to run away to Chicago with her brother, Gideon.
  • Gideon Rose is the younger brother of Pringle. He has Down syndrome, which sometimes causes others to misunderstand him, or worse, mistreat him. Gideon stopped talking after his parents' accident.


Main article: Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Susan Campbell Bartoletti is a Newbery Award winning author. Her first picture book, Silver at Night was published inn 1992. Campbell Bartoletti also wrote A Coal Miner's Bride (2000) for Dear America and The Journal of Finn Reardon (2003) for My Name Is America. In contrast to her A Coal Miner's Bride, Down the Rabbit Hole is about "the daughter of a wealthy mine owner who railed against the workers' attempts to unionize and strike for better wages and living conditions".[3] Pringle's character was inspired by 1 Chronicles 4:10 in the Bible, and Gideon was based on a family friend of the author's, Sal Angello.



"Some day-to-day events leading to the Great Chicago Fire are products of my imagination. Others have been reconstructed through research of contemporary newspapers, books, personal accounts, and maps, as well as books and articles published on the subject in recent years.
In addition to the standard works, I'm grateful to the following: Jim Murphy's
The Great Fire (New York: Scholastic, 1995); Peter Cookson Jr. and Caroline Hodges Persell's Preparing for Power: America's Elite Boarding Schools (New York: Basic Book, HarperCollins, 1985); Jeffrey Geller and Maxine Harris's Women of the Asylum: Voices Behind the Walls, 1840-1945 (New York: Anchor Books, Doubleday, 1994); Phillip L. Safford and Elizabeth J. Safford's A History of Childhood and Disability (New York: Teachers' College, Columbia University, 1996), and John H. White, Jr.'s The American Railroad Passenger Call, Parts 1 and 2 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978).
I'm especially grateful to Lewis Carroll and his classic
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, first published in 1865. Lewis Carroll is the pseudonym of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. Fellow devotees of this work will spot the many references. For this work, I relied on a version electronically published by the Project Gutenberg.
I'm grateful to the many generous people who helped inform this story: Rose Marie Leitza Crotti; Sal Angello; historian Patrick McKnight and curator Sarah Smith (Streamtown National Historical Site, Scranton Pennsylvania); my editor, Lisa Sandell, for her unflagging support and patience; friends Clara Gillow Clark, Joyce McDonald, and Elizabeth Patridge for reading parts of this story and sharing pages; Bambi Lobddell, just because; my mother, Joan Jenkin, for inspiring me to write about a nanny; my grandchildren for inspiring certain (*ahem*) character traits; and my husband, Joe, who helped me find the right ending on our many walks around the lake.


  • The portrait on the cover was illustrated by Tim O'Brien. The background on the cover is a detail from Chicago's Court-House Square on fire from the North Wind Picture Archives.[5][6]


See also[]

Dear America

A Journey to the New World | The Winter of Red Snow | When Will This Cruel War Be Over? | A Picture of Freedom
Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie | So Far from Home | I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly
West to a Land of Plenty | Dreams in the Golden Country | Standing in the Light | Voyage on the Great Titanic
A Line in the Sand | My Heart Is on the Ground | The Great Railroad Race | The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow
A Light in the Storm | Color Me Dark | A Coal Miner's Bride | My Secret War | One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping
Valley of the Moon | Seeds of Hope | Early Sunday Morning | My Face to the Wind | Christmas After All
A Time for Courage | Where Have All the Flowers Gone? | Mirror, Mirror on the Wall | Survival in the Storm
When Christmas Comes Again | Land of the Buffalo Bones | Love Thy Neighbor | All the Stars in the Sky
Look to the Hills | I Walk in Dread | Hear My Sorrow


The Fences Between Us | Like the Willow Tree | Cannons at Dawn | With the Might of Angels | Behind the Masks
Down the Rabbit Hole | A City Tossed and Broken

External links[]