I love adding historically acurate novels to our library for my boys so when we received the first two books in the Goldtown Beginnings series ( Jem Strikes Gold and Jem’s Frog Fiasco ) for review from Kregel Publications, we were very happy!
It is not always easy to find good novels in which the main character is a boy, so of course I jumped on this one because I have all boys. With their delays, these were a very good reading level, especially for “The Puzzler.”
In each of the books, written by Susan K. Marlow and illustrated by Okan Bülbül, there is a vocabulary section right in the front of the book, as opposed to being in the back where I more often see it (if there even is one!).
In book 1, Jem Strikes Gold, eight year old Jem is living in a gold camp with his family, Pa, Mama, and his little sister Ellie.
Jem’s pa has a big gold claim along Cripple Creek, while Jem and Ellie each have a small one adjacent to their pa’s. People during the gold rush believed that heading to gold country would make them rich very quickly, but the reality was that panning for gold was terribly hard work. In fact, many people made more money selling services and cooking for other miners. Other miners would pay them in gold. Jem and Ellie’s Mama made pies and sold them to other miners, and to the cafe, and was paid in gold for them. When the children are delivering that day’s pies (blueberry, my favorite!) we are introduced to Will, the son of the town’s richest man and a real bully. He causes the pies to be ruined and Jem’s remembered Bible verses on dealing with bullies to fly right out of his head. When a fellow miner gives Jem a dog, Mama at first forbids it. But Nugget slowly worms his way into her heart after he helps to ensure that Will never picks on them again. You can read an excerpt from this book here, and coloring pages of the illustrations in this book at this link. There are activity pages and a schedule for this book here.
In Jem’s Frog Fiasco, Jem gets a job catching Bullfrogs for the cafe owner’s menu. Unfortunately, Ellie and Nugget get in the way, and he and Ellie argue. When Ellie leaves, and doesn’t make it home, the searching begins. Jem and Nugget find and rescue her from a coyote hole dug by a miner looking for gold. You can read an excerpt of this book here, and download the coloring pages at this link. Activity pages with a schedule for this book can be found here.
At the end of each book is “A Peek into History” which gives a glimpse of historical facts related to the story.
These are fairly short books, 10 chapters over about 80 pages each. The chapters are quick paced and engaging, and my son liked the books very much.
I would love for you to read what other families thought of Jem Strikes Gold and Jem’s Frog Fiasco! To see the thoughts of 44 other Review Crew Members, please click on the banner just below.
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