Reviews for Hard Gold (I Witness) : The Colorado Gold Rush of 1859: a Tale of the Old West

AudioFile Reviews 2013 February
Alston Brown's easy pace is well suited to descriptions of boundless opportunities and the wide-open prairie. Brown is the personification of innocence and naivete as he describes this book's romantic visions of Colorado gold. The story is told by 14-year-old Early Whitcomb. Brown subtly differentiates between characters, allowing Early's earnestness and Uncle Jesse's charisma to distinguish them. After Jesse goes in search of enough gold to save the family farm, Early follows and faces romance, danger, and even death. As Early's wagon train trudges west, the certainty of success fades, and tragedies abound. Despite everything, Early and his new friends maintain a positive outlook, which is further brightened by Brown's sunny delivery. A.M.P. (c) AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

School Library Journal Reviews 2013 January

Gr 5-8--Early Whitcomb's family is in danger of losing their farm. They're behind in their payments, and a local banker is working with the railroad company to force them into selling. Early's young uncle, Jesse, thinks he has the answer. Handbills from the West indicate that gold has been found in Pike's Peak, Nebraska Territory, and it's there for the taking. Early's parents and older brother discount the reports, but Jesse and Early have the itch. Jesse soon sneaks off (under a cloud of suspicion due to a coincidentally timed bank robbery) to strike gold and save the farm. Early's family forbids him to follow, but when word arrives that Jesse has found gold and is in danger, he strikes out alone, joining a wagon train as a hired hand for a barber, his ailing wife, and feisty daughter. The grueling journey, a budding romance, and the possible ill intentions of fellow travelers add suspense and intrigue as Early learns how desperation and circumstances can change the course of one's life. The historical focus of Avi's novel (Hyperion, 2008) is broad. The endless wagon trains are likened to advancing lines of tiny white ants, but individual hardships are presented with considerably less detail. Dialogue and behaviors ring true, and the narration by Alston Brown is clear and pleasing. The diary style is well-suited for audio format. Similar to the "My Name Is America" series, Hard Gold brings history alive, particularly for boys.--Lisa Taylor, Ocean County Library, NJ

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