It's the spring of 1851 and San Francisco is booming. Twelve-year-old Amelia Forrester has just arrived with her family and they are eager to make a new life in Phoenix City. But the mostly male town is not that hospitable to females and Amelia decides she'll earn more money as a boy. Cutting her hair and donning a cap, she joins a gang of newsboys, selling Eastern newspapers for a fortune. And that's just the beginning of her adventures. Participating in the biggest news stories of the day, Amelia is not a girl...
It's the spring of 1851 and San Francisco is booming. Twelve-year-old Amelia Forrester has just arrived with her family and they are eager to make a new life in Phoenix City. But the mostly male town is not that hospitable to females and Amelia decides she'll earn more money as a boy. Cutting her hair and donning a cap, she joins a gang of newsboys, selling Eastern newspapers for a fortune. And that's just the beginning of her adventures. Participating in the biggest news stories of the day, Amelia is not a girl to let life pass her by - even and especially when it involves danger!
Ketchum has produced another gripping adventure story with believable, offbeat characters and rich historical detail in a mid-nineteenth-century setting that seems newly alive. Amelia Forrester, her mother, and her mother's friend, Estelle Duprey, have just arrived in San Francisco, hoping to make a living in this bustling town and to leave behind (in Boston) the secret identity of Amelia's father. To help her small, odd family get by, Amelia decides to hawk newspapers. Because boys have cornered the concession, she cuts her hair, dresses in trousers, and quickly figures out how to best the rude boys at their business. She also hopes to write for newspapers, even though her education has been sporadic. She gets her chance when she and a boy who befriends her, accidentally rise in a hot-air balloon, sail over the bay, and land, roughly, in the "diggings," a mountainous area where miners pan for gold. To pay for her passage back to San Francisco, Amelia writes and sells her story to the local paper. She returns just as the city becomes engulfed in flames and must once again help her family manage. The story of Amelia's balloon ride is based on an actual event in which a teenaged boy became an accidental "aeronaut." Other details of newspaper writing and selling, sailing ships, San Francisco, and women's livelihoods suffuse the story, making this an original historical novel that will appeal to both boys and girls. Before recommending the book, librarians should be aware that Amelia learns that her mother was not married to her father. Reviewer: Cynthia Levinson
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—Never has 12-year-old Amelia Forrester found it so inconvenient to be a girl. Her mother and family friend, Estelle, can come all the way from Boston to San Francisco as businesswomen, but Amelia can't even sell a months'-old Boston newspaper without being assaulted and taunted by boys. While the two women—dressmakers by trade—adjust their business plan to make clothing for men, Amelia makes an entrepreneurial decision of her own. She chops off her long hair, dons a borrowed cap and trousers, and takes to the streets of 1851 San Francisco to hawk newspapers. Her nose for news soon leads her and her new friend, Patrick, to a much-hyped balloon launch. As fate would have it, they are invited to stand in the balloon's basket, but the men on the ground lose their grip on the tethers and the children find themselves soaring over the mountains. After a crash landing, Amelia is badly injured and brought to the mining town of Sonora to mend. Much to her dismay, orphaned Patrick finds a family with a French prospecting couple, while Amelia ponders her fatherless upbringing. She does finally recover, finds a newspaper editor who publishes her story, and returns home a hero. Ketchum nicely interweaves actual events into this engaging story. She also covers the topics of discrimination and same-sex couples with aplomb. Amelia is a well-rounded character: imperfect, persistent, unsure of herself, and likable. An educational and entertaining read.—Wendy Scalfaro, G. Ray Bodley High School, Fulton, NY
Amelia arrives in San Francisco at the height of the Gold Rush with her mother and Estelle, the two parents in her family. She has never known her father, and immediately readers are made aware of the widespread condemnation their household received back in Boston. The realities and uncertainties plaguing the burgeoning community fall heavily on her family unit, one familiar today and likely as familiar then, if seldom chronicled. Amelia finds dresses and expectations of ladylike behavior constricting and immediately tries to succeed selling newspapers in competition with the boys. While Amelia gets into trouble as fast as she tries to get out of it, she is nevertheless a sympathetic character. An inadvertent balloon trip broadens her horizons as her vulnerability to danger increases. Gradually she comes to accept her new surroundings and realizes the love her mother and Estelle have for her. Countless novels that have gone before have explored the emotional territory of an absent parent within the context of an upheaval in history, but this is notable for exploring an alternative family structure in an historical setting. (Historical fiction. 10 & up)