Review Detail

Kids Fiction 400
San Francisco during the Gold Rush
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
Victoria Blaisdell (who likes to be called Tory even though her mother doesn't think it is proper) has a good life in Providence, Rhode Island in 1848 until her father loses his job. While there is a wealthy aunt on whom the family can depend, they are not pleased with drawing her criticism, so the father decides to go to the California gold fields to make his fortune. Fearing that staying to watch her mother as she is expected will be confining and boring, Victoria stows away on the ship taking her father and brother Jacob to San Francisco. Once her father finds out she is there, he tells her that she will be in charge of the new household and of making sure that Jacob goes to school, until her mother arrives. Once there, however, the family finds that living conditions are not what they are used to in Rhode Island-- most people live in tents, there is constant mud, and there are no schools. Undeterred, the father buys a tent for the children and takes off for the gold fields. Victoria throws herself into working, wearing boys' clothing and making friends such as Maine born Thad. Jacob, who is about ten, refuses to stir himself to do anything but pout, although he occasionally works at the nearby restaurant whose owner has become their friend. When Jacob goes missing, Victoria seeks help from Thad and also a new boy she has met at a theatre where she thinks Jacob had been. Sam is a free born Black from the East Coast, but there is prejudice in California and he and his father are afraid of being sold back into slavery. It looks like Jacob has been kidnapped by men who find sailors for ships, and Victoria, Thad and Sam embark on the dangerous job of trying to find him. Will San Francisco ever become a place where the Blaisdells can live in comfort and safety?
Good Points
Avi's style is a bit old fashioned, but strong readers will not be too surprised by the language and descriptions. Readers who have enjoyed other titles by this author, such as award winning The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle or Crispin: The Cross of Lead, will be expecting this. There's a reason that Avi is the go-to author for quality, historical nonfiction.

Tory was a great character who proved that she could be adventurous while also fully understanding the constraints on girls' behavior during this time period, especially since Gold Rush era San Francisco seems to have been pretty lawless.

There are a fair number of books about different aspects of the Gold Rush, and this is an excellent addition to titles like Hart's Murphy: Gold Rush Dog, Cadnum's Blood Gold, Rose's Jasper and the Mystery of Riley's Mine, and Jennifer Holm's Boston Jane.
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