Nine for California

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This lighthearted picture book puts a uniquely human face on the Gold Rush era, one with which any kid who's endured a long car trip will identify. Mama and her five kids, including narrator Amanda and Baby Betsy, leave Missouri to meet Pa in far-off "Californ-y," where he's been working in the gold fields. They join persnickety Mr. Hooper and dainty Miss Camilla in a crowded stagecoach for the 21-day trip. The group groans as Mama insists on bringing a huge, bulging sack that makes the coach all the more cramped. But when her bag of tricks saves the passengers from Indians, a buffalo stampede, robbers and even boredom, everyone stops complaining. Levitin (The Man Who Kept His Heart in a Bucket) crafts a text balanced with humor, rambunctious read-aloud language and a bounty of factual information about westward travel in the mid-1800s. Smith's (Scaredy Dog) characteristically rowdy watercolors are often funny, but they also exude a sweetness and sensitivity to the difficult conditions. And like the text, the illustrations provide clear frontier detail and fun facts, too, such as the "anatomy of a stagecoach" that appears on the back jacket. A solid-gold nugget of a history lesson. Ages 4-9. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Jan Lieberman
Imagine eating beans and prunes for 21 days, being cooped up with 8 other people in a stagecoach that bounces, sways, and jiggles, facing Indians, robbers, stampeding buffalo, unstable weather and ...paying $300 for that experience. Yet, California was settled by many who took this hazardous trip as described hilariously by Sonia Levitin in Nine for California. A resourceful mama with a magical sack of goodies knows how to keep her 5 children and the other stagecoach travelers entertained and safe from the wild and unexpected happenings of this trip. Cat Bowman Smith's rich, lively paintings make this moment in California's history unforgettable.
Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
A rollicking ride takes us across 2500 miles of prairie, badlands, and mountains to reach California. Mamma and her five little ones make the three-week journey in a crowded and uncomfortable stagecoach. Mama is a wonder, because her sack contains resources to help the travelers through some mighty tough situations. The freckle-faced, gap-toothed kids and the other passengers are a delight. This funny story is based on the factual accounts of travelers in the nineteenth century who actually made this arduous, overland journey.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3When Pa writes from the California gold fields to say he's lonely, Ma resolves to take her five children and join him. Young Amanda tells about their 21-day journey west from Missouri, cramped into a stagecoach with three other adult passengers. Levitin has used travelers' journals and letters from the late 1800s to concoct an event-filled adventure. Slowly but surely, Ma's sack full of "everything we'll need'' for the trip empties out as its contents saves more than one tense moment from erupting into a disaster. The long route is at times tedious for the travelers, but not so for readers. Every time Amanda begins to become bored, something exciting happens: hungry Indians surround the stage; a torrential rainfall causes it to get stuck in the mud; buffalo stampede toward the coach; and so on. The characters are all well drawn. The language makes the story come alive. The bright, colorful cartoons lend an amused, tongue-in-cheek tone to the story, making this exaggerated, composite narrative almost believable, and distinguishing it from many of the others covering the same experience. Use this book with David Williams's Grandma Essie's Covered Wagon (Knopf, 1993), Eleanor Coerr's The Josephina Story Quilt (HarperCollins, 1995), Karen Ackerman's Araminta's Paint Box (Atheneum, 1990), and Brett Harvey's Cassie's Journey (Holiday, 1988) for a variety of portrayals of the journey westward.Linda Greengrass, Bank Street College Library, New York City
Kirkus Reviews
Levitin (Evil Encounter, p. 533, etc.) finds an outlandish premise for her story of one family's stagecoach trip to California in the late 1800s, a story that also happily found Smith's winsome illustrations. Incidents in the book are based on letters and diaries of travelers (and in the fictional frame, a lot of information about stagecoaches is amicably bestowed upon readers), but there was probably never a trip like this one. When Pa sends a letter saying, "Come to California, my dears. I am lonely without you," Mama and her five children pack, with Mama's sack of needfuls growing fatter by the minute. Rounding out the group for the 21-day trip are a banker, a teacher, and Cowboy Charlie. Baby Betsy throws up on the banker, then gets the hiccups. Mama quiets them all with sugar lumps from her sack. For lunch it's the stage driver's beans and Mama's prunes. Is everybody having fun yet?

When this credibility-straining journey's over, readers may ask what Pa's doing for a living now since he was a bust as a miner, or why Mama puts up so gleefully with his sexist comments when they meet. Go West? Maybe not by stagecoach.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780531071762
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/1/2001
  • Edition description: 1ST ORCHAR
  • Pages: 40
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.78 (w) x 9.52 (h) x 0.14 (d)

Meet the Author

“Often a newspaper article or a historical event that relates to my own experience triggers my stories. Though time and distance may separate me from the event, I can transfer my own feelings—fears and longings— to the characters I am creating.

“I have escaped war. I have been an immigrant, an outsider, and lonely in a new land. I have been persecuted, the only Jew in the entire school. I have been the brightest student and also the dullest; I have been rejected and also praised for my accomplishments.

“All these feelings and challenges flow into my stories, whether picture books or novels for older readers. I draw characters from the individuals I have known—my mother, who was courageous and strong, my sisters, acquaintances and friends, some who were wonderful role models, others who betrayed me. I have written several mysteries, because I wonder what leads people into crime. Good fiction informs us about choices and helps us differentiate between what is valuable and what is destructive. Through drama we practice living. This is what I hope my fiction will provide for my readers, along with entertainment and pleasure.

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