Clarissa and I read books together everyday. Usually I read them aloud to her and later she will go back and “read” them to herself. She has a great memory and she is learning to decode words so she does a decent job with the books we have already read together. I follow several different book lists and am always looking for something new. I especially like a book that is fun to read but also educational so I signed up to review The Goldtown Beginnings Series by Kregel Publications.
I like that both books are easy to read. They are marketed for ages 6-8, and I feel like emerging readers could actually read these books independantly. The chapters are short. The font is easy to read. There are some black and white pictures on a couple of pages of each chapter. I also like that there are some nonfiction text features in this book, even though it is historical fiction. The beginning of the book has a table of contents as well as a page of new words that kids might not know (glossary). I really liked that the vocabulary words were in the beginning in of the book to be introduced before the story instead of at the end. At the end of the book, there is a short section about the history.
The first book in the series is Jem Strikes Gold. Jem (Jeremiah) is almost 8 and his little sister Ellie (Ellianna) is almost 6. They live with Mama and Pa in a tent by the river where they have a gold claim. Pa works with an old neighbor named Strike to pan for gold. But Mama makes more money selling pies and doing laundry for people in town. The rich boy in town named Will causes trouble for Jem a few times in the story.
Clarissa wasn’t really excited about the story until the dog showed up and then she didn’t want me to stop reading. In the book, Mama was adamantly opposed to keeping the dog that Strike found until the dog helps Jem with his problems with the rich kid, Will. I liked that Jem and Ellie came from a good, Christian family. The siblings got along well and worked together to help their family. The book also brought up some great discussions about The Gold Rush, why someone would live in a tent, poverty, a one room schoolhouse, and what a dog needs to eat.
The second book is called Jem’s Frog Fiasco. Nugget, the dog, has been with Jem and Ellie for a few weeks now. The family is still poor so it is a struggle to feed the dog. Jem decides that he needs a job so that he will have enough money to buy meat from the butcher to feed Nugget. The cafe owner in town tells him that he wants to add frog legs to his menu, so he will pay Jem five cents per frog he catches.
Jem and Ellie have a fight while catching bullfrogs at the pond because Jem thinks Ellie is too loud and scaring the frogs away. Jem tells Ellie to go home and she leaves. Jem has a very successful afternoon catching frogs. When he gets home, he finds out that Ellie never made it home. Everyone goes to look for her. Eventually, Jem finds her in a coyote hole with help from Nugget, the dog. This story would be a great conversation starter about money, responsibilities in a family, and sibling relationships.
When we finished the second book, Clarissa asked if there were more. The next two books in the series are scheduled to release in March. The publisher website also provides enrichment materials in the form of activity guides, lapbooks, and coloring pages to go along with these stories. You can read about what other families thought of the books here.