The Devil’s Highway

The Outlaw Years on the Natchez Trace
by Stan Applegate
Illustrated by James Watling
Two brave, determined young pioneers travel along the dangerous Natchez Trace in 1811, searching for their missing families.
Price: $9.95
  • ISBN: 9781561458516
  • Publication date: 10/15/2014
  • Page Count: N/A
  • Age Range: 8-12


Two brave, determined young pioneers travel along the dangerous Natchez Trace in 1811, searching for their missing families.

Fourteen-year-old Zeb and eleven-year-old Hannah team up to make their way safely down the Natchez Trace from Franklin, Tennessee, to Natchez, Mississippi. Zeb, who does not believe the story he hears that his grandfather was killed by thieves along the trail, is determined to find him. Hannah, who escaped from the treacherous Mason gang, hopes to be reunited with both her Choctaw Indian friends and her family.

When the two adventurers reach the Choctaw village, Zeb is befriended by the Indians and rewarded for his bravery through initiation into the tribe. However, as the children narrowly escape life-threatening situations along their journey, they still face challenges: can Zeb find his grandfather? Is he still alive?

In author Stan Applegate’s riveting adventure tale brought to life by James Watling’s illustrations, Zeb and Hannah learn to value each other’s survival skills and courage.


Stan Applegate


Stan Applegate holds degrees from Pennsylvania State University and Columbia University. He worked in education for many years, as a teacher, as chief of education science and technology for USAID in the Dominican Republic and Colombia, for the office of American affairs in education, and as vice president for research and sponsored programs at the University of South Carolina. He passed away in 2018.

James Watling


James Watling lives in Canada, where he is a professor of art education at McGill University. He has illustrated over twenty-five books for children.


“A fast-paced story set against the backdrop of the Natchez Trace in the early 1800s…. Broad strokes of historical details enrich the storyline. Zeb and Hannah are able to sustain themselves, and the plot, with their pluck and determination.” ―School Library Journal


Best Books for Young Teen Readers ―R. R. Bowker

Georgia Author of the Year (Best of Middle Reader Division) ―Georgia Writers Association, 1998

Volunteer State Book Awards (Master List, Grades 4-6) ―Tennessee Association of School Librarians, 2000-2001


Resources: Teacher's Guide

Teacher’s Guide

More Details

AR Level: 4.5
F&P: GRL T, Gr 5, Genre HF
Lexile: 620L
Themes: Courage, Determination, Natchez Trail, Racism
BISAC 1: JUV016140 JUVENILE FICTION / Historical / United States / 19th Century
BISAC 2: JUV001000 JUVENILE FICTION / Action & Adventure / General
BISAC 3: JUV030060 JUVENILE FICTION / People & Places / United States / General