Saturday, March 21, 2020

Gold Rush Girl

Avi. Gold Rush Girl
March 10th 2020 by Candlewick Press
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Victoria Blaisdell (who likes to be called Tory even though her mother doesn't think it is proper) has a good life in Providence, Rhode Island in 1848 until her father loses his job. While there is a wealthy aunt on whom the family can depend, they are not pleased with drawing her criticism, so the father decides to go to the California gold fields to make his fortune. Fearing that staying to watch her mother as she is expected will be confining and boring, Victoria stows away on the ship taking her father and brother Jacob to San Francisco. Once her father finds out she is there, he tells her that she will be in charge of the new household and of making sure that Jacob goes to school, until her mother arrives. Once there, however, the family finds that living conditions are not what they are used to in Rhode Island-- most people live in tents, there is constant mud, and there are no schools. Undeterred, the father buys a tent for the children and takes off for the gold fields. Victoria throws herself into working, wearing boys' clothing and making friends such as Maine born Thad. Jacob, who is about ten, refuses to stir himself to do anything but pout, although he occasionally works at the nearby restaurant whose owner has become their friend. When Jacob goes missing, Victoria seeks help from Thad and also a new boy she has met at a theatre where she thinks Jacob had been. Sam is a free born Black from the East Coast, but there is prejudice in California and he and his father are afraid of being sold back into slavery. It looks like Jacob has been kidnapped by men who find sailors for ships, and Victoria, Thad and Sam embark on the dangerous job of trying to find him. Will San Francisco ever become a place where the Blaisdells  can live in comfort and safety?
Strengths: I'm a huge fan of Avi's historical fiction, and this story reminded me a bit of Charlotte Doyle. There's action, adventure, a strong female character, and lots of details about daily life during this time period. I especially loved that Victoria's Providence house still exists and was occupied during this time period by a family named Blaisdell. As always, the research is fantastic, and the story telling top notch.
Weaknesses: Avi's style is a bit old fashioned, but strong readers will not be too surprised by the language and descriptions. While I liked this book, I wish that less of it had been concerned with finding Jacob. He was rather a brat, so I couldn't get too invested in trying to find him! It did add an air of danger to the story, though.
What I really think: Jennifer Holm's Boston Jane, about the Alaskan Gold Rush, is very popular in my library, so I think I will purchase this, since more of my sixth graders are reading historical fiction.
Dean, Justin. Awesome Dog 5000 vs. Mayor Bossypants (#2)
March 3rd 2020 by Random House
Copy provided by the publisher

Marty is back with his friends Skyler and Ralph after Awesome Dog 5000. They are trying to track down the last of the spybots that have been following them, but end up destroying Granny Nunchucks garden in the process.They are also excited about the new Sheriff Turbo-Karate game, and have saved up the $30 to purchase it. When they go to the store to purchase it, they find that the $30 will only buy the "Meh" version, and the Gold version is $100! They try to think of ways to raise money, and finally decide they will have to enter the science fair competition, which has a prize of $100. In the meantime, Mayor Bossypants and his teeny-tinies are taking over the town, spending money on a ridiculous show of statues of the mayor. When the show is interrupted by Awesome Dog, the mayor vows to take him down. The kids decide that for their project, they will invent the Slop-peroni Pizza Oven, that will turn horrible cafeteria food into something edible. Of course, they run into problems at every turn, especially with Mayor Bossypants working against them. Despite a falling out, technical problems, and disappointing results in the fair, will the group manage to keep their town safe from the vain and egocentric mayor and his minions?
Strengths: This had a nice mix of picture and text, and the illustrations are exuberantly goofy. Marty and his friends' obsession with the video game will resonate with young readers, and the touch of friend drama adds a little more human interest to this. Reader who like Dog Man or Jay Cooper's The Spy Next Door will revel in the ineffectual teeny-tinies, Mayor Bossypant's temper tantrums, and of course, Awesome Dog's heroics.
Weaknesses: I'm never a fan of making fun of cafeteria food. It's never that bad, and it has to be really hard to make under the constraints that exist.
What I really think: While these aren't my favorite, they are perfect for struggling 6th graders who gravitate towards graphic novels. I've been working with a 6th grade boy who finally admitted that he only looked at the pictures in graphic novels, but has been reading books like The Infamous Ratsos at a clip of one a day. This will be perfect for him, and he will like the goofy humor and all of the explosions. Just not my personal cup of tea.

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