Reviews for Hard Gold : The Colorado Gold Rush of 1859: A Tale of the Old West


Booklist Reviews 2008 September #1
The I Witness series strives to make history more appealing by presenting fiction decked out with an array of nonfiction trappings: maps, diagrams, period photographs, and a multitude of paintings. This entry opens with a classic western setup: an unscrupulous banker tries to force the Whitcomb family off their farm, thus making way for the railroad snaking its way across the country. Young Early and his uncle Jesse hear rumors of a gold strike out in the Rocky Mountains, and see an angle to save the family farm. Jesse takes off without warning and sends word back that he's struck it rich but is being threatened by thieves. Determined to help him, Early hits the trail with a migrating family and discovers how gold fever can change even the best of men. The beginning and end of the story provide good excitement, but the middle section, the dull Nebraska crossing, is stretched a bit too thin. Still, the detailed, authentic touches of history and adventure are a good combination for readers who might resist straight nonfiction. Copyright 2008 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2009 Spring
Early Wittcomb runs away from home to rescue his uncle Jesse and bring back gold to save the family farm. Early works his way West on a wagon train, encountering many dangers along the way and learning the importance of family and friends while figuring out his own future. An appended author's note and photographs give additional context for the story. Bib., glos. Copyright 2009 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2008 August #2
Centering on the more-or-less overlooked American gold rush in Colorado, this historical novel follows Early Wittcomb as he travels from Iowa to Pike's Peak in search of a favorite uncle who set off to find gold and save the family farm from bank foreclosure. Hoping to find his uncle, gold and adventure, Early signs on to help a feckless barber, his sickly wife and his rebellious daughter get to Colorado by Conestoga wagon. This plows some familiar ground in plot and characterization: hardships of the westward crossing, plucky teens who are wiser than their elders, the utter cluelessness of the "Fifty-Niners," as the emigrant miners were known, and the inevitable disappointment that followed most. What will make this interesting for readers who like action is the relentless foreshadowing of evil and heartbreak, the short chapters, the trademark Avi cliffhangers, sharp attention to interesting (but not overwhelming) historical detail and the many period illustrations and photographs. (glossary, author's note, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2008 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2008 September

Gr 4-7-- Fourteen-year-old Early Whitcomb's family is trying desperately to hold onto their Iowa farm during hard times. The local banker is pressuring the Whitcombs to sell their land to the Chicago and North Western railway, promising to foreclose on their mortgage if they refuse. This prompts Early's Uncle Jesse, 19, to head west and find gold, disappearing under suspicion of bank robbery. After he writes that he has found gold but suspects that it will be stolen, Early sneaks away and signs on to a wagon train destined for Cherry Creek and Pike's Peak. A representative of the railroad is also traveling with the wagon trains, and the boy suspects that he wants to find Jesse and prevent him from helping his family save the farm. Early makes an unlikely ally in Lizzy Bunderly, the free-spirited daughter of his wagon-train employer, and the two friends face heartache, hardship, and loss while learning the value of endurance on this journey that takes them across the wild, unsettled territory. The novel deals with difficult times in the life of a young person, but emphasizes Early's optimism and hope for better days. The lessons he learns as a result of the choices he makes, as opposed to those made by his uncle, reveal the importance of making decisions wisely. The period reproductions add much to the understanding of an earlier way of life. The chapters are short and broken up into diary format so as to mimic travel journals of the early wagon train adventurers. A rewarding addition.--Debra Banna, Sharon Public Library, MA

[Page 172]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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VOYA Reviews 2008 October
Determined to find his nineteen-year-old uncle and best friend, Jesse, who left for Colorado to find enough gold to pay the mortgage and save the family's Iowa farm, twelve-year-old Early Whittcomb joins up with a barber, his wife, and his daughter on a wagon train heading for the gold fields near Pike's Peak in 1858. Young Early documents the journey's details and his worry that the mysterious Mr. Mawr is also searching for Jesse as a suspect in a bank robbery. Early discovers an unusual friend in Lizzie, the barber's twelve-year-old daughter. She becomes his confidante and helpmate in locating Jesse when they arrive in Colorado. Early finds that Jesse has found enough gold, but his zest to strike it rich has also changed Jesse into an outlaw, on the run from authorities. Avi brings to life the Colorado Gold Rush, the wagon train experience, and the lust for easy riches. He delivers enough adventure and suspense to keep readers engaged throughout. Written in journal format with illustrations that help in understanding the era, the book includes a useful glossary of unfamiliar historical terms. Readers will empathize with Early's moral dilemma and find his friendship with Lizzie both plausible and refreshing. Better editing on dates in Early's journal is needed. This book should have special appeal to boys and readers who have enjoyed the Dear America series.-Chris Carlson 3Q 4P M J Copyright 2008 Voya Reviews.

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