VOYASimilar to books in the Dear America series based on actual historical people and events, fourteen-year-old Susanna Fairchild's story chronicles her family's 1849 journey to California and their search for gold. Although simply written, her diary vividly describes life onboard a ship sailing around Cape Hope. When Susanna's mother is swept overboard and drowns because she had sewn their money into the hem of her dress, her devastated father changes his plans. Instead of joining relatives in the Oregon territory, Susanna and her sister and father will travel to San Francisco and then go on to gold country. By finding gold, the seeds of hope of the title, he hopes to recoup the family's lost money. The diary is full of tidbits of interesting information. Readers learn that entire crews deserted their ships and left them in the harbor to rot. Later, some ships were dragged aground, propped up with logs, and used as hotels and gaming houses. The diary explains how gold was panned and describes the cost of food, clothing, and shelter. Readers will develop a respect for the resourcefulness and courage of two teenage girls who try to maintain a safe home while their father works the gold fields. The author appends historical notes, including pictures, a recipe, and a map of the approximate routes taken to California from the East Coast of the United States. Although teen readers will enjoy this book as recreational reading, it would make good supplementary reading in classes dealing with American history, California, and the Gold Rush days. Photos. Map. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9;Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2001, Scholastic, 184p, $10.95 Trade pb. Ages 12 to 18. Reviewer: Debbie Earl
School Library Journal - School Library JournalGr 5-8-Fourteen-year-old Susanna Fairchild and her family embark on a journey that they hope will bring them good fortune. Boarding a ship sailing from New York to the West, the Fairchilds set out for Oregon where they plan to start a new life. Tragedy strikes when Susanna's mother is lost at sea, and they must continue on without her. Hearing stories of enormous wealth, Susanna's physician father decides to join the hordes of men rushing to California to mine for gold. The trials and tribulations encountered by the many men who risked their lives for the chance to become rich are wonderfully envisioned by the author. The uncharted West with its many hazards is descriptively brought to life through the diary writings of Susanna, who proves to be up to the task of surviving the rugged lifestyle her father has chosen for them. A strong female voice takes readers on an adventure filled with sorrow for the loss of her mother, love for her father and sister, and a determination to make a home amid the wilderness. Secondary characters are nicely interspersed throughout the story. Historical notes, drawings, a recipe for "Miner's Griddle Cakes," and a map of the gold-mining region provide a fitting conclusion to an interesting story.-Janet Gillen, Great Neck Public Library, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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