Our Summer reading adventures continue with the first book in the Goldtown Adventures series from Susan Marlow and Kregel Publications. There are currently two books available for purchase, with a third on the way this fall. Through The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew we received Badge of Honor.
Badge of Honor is an historical fiction book set in the year 1864, in the California foothills. The big gold rush of the prior decade has slowed, and many towns that literally popped up overnight are now trying to establish themselves with a new purpose. Along with this growth comes advances in law and order.
This story recounts the daily adventures of 12 year old Jeremiah (Jem) and his 10 year old sister Ellianna (Ellie). It refers back to the death of their mother at an earlier date, and shows how their God-fearing father does his best to raise them up in a proper manner, providing for them and building their character through ranch chores and Biblically based advice given at the proper moments.
Jem is a pretty typical boy of the mid-1800's, who loves his adventures. He has good intentions, but is constantly finding himself in predicaments that land him in trouble with his dad, or the school teacher. The story builds to a climax where Jem, Ellie, and their recently met city cousin Nathan set out to solve a mystery involving the drying up of their creek and the simultaneous disappearance of an old prospecting partner named Strike-It-Rich Sam.
While all these adventures are playing out, Jem learns that his father has accepted a position as the new sheriff of Goldtown. Jem is not happy about this at all, as he feels that his father will now be a target of all the bandits and criminals that hang around the old gold mining town. Growing up, Jem has seen a lot of trouble, and worries constantly over his father's well being as the sheriff. Added to the mix is meeting a newly widowed aunt and her son, cousin Nathan, that come all the way from Boston to live with the family. Jem feels as if his whole world has been turned upside down.
The book ends with quite a bit of excitement and adventure, and shows Jem maturing by learning to accept and embrace the changes in his life. As he witnesses his father the sheriff in action, protecting his son and capturing the bad guys, Jem is filled with pride and admiration and no longer is wishing away the badge, but realizes instead that it is a very honorable and valuable definition of who his father is.
The finer details: Badge of Honor is a paperback book that is 143 pages long. It is recommended for ages 8-12. It sells for $7.99 plus $2.50 shipping, or both books 1 & 2 in the series can be purchased together for the special combo price of $13.95. The books can be purchased from the website here.
Here is a short video trailer for the Goldtown Adventures Books:
Extra benefits: The author, Susan Marlow, has made available a free 24 page companion literary guide to go along with this book. The companion guide is amazing! It has all sorts of activities, extra information, and explanations to accompany the book. Some of the activities are review questions, while others give more detailed explanations of prospecting, revolvers, flumes, and other items that were discussed in the book that might be unfamiliar to a 21st century young person.
A sample of one of the activity pages in the companion study guide.
What we thought of this book: Now that I have told you all about the book, let me share what we thought of it personally. Three members of the family read this book. Kelly, who is 8 and on the young end of the recommended age levels, had a hard time getting into the book and finishing it. Melissa, who is 11, thought it started out slow. Although it has a lot of adventure and excitement towards the end of the book, she thought the beginning needed more, in order to grip the reader and draw them in. She liked the story over all, even though the main character was a boy and she prefers reading about girls' adventures.
As mom, I read the story, and had to agree that the first two chapters were very slow moving, but after that, it got very interesting! Towards the end of the book, I had a hard time putting it down because I really wanted to see how the story played out. I really appreciate how much historical accuracy was put into the book. I think it gave a very good feel for the time period and society that it was set in. I LOVE the literary companion study guide! I think the characters were very relevant and easily relatable. I appreciate the discreet way that the rough and tumble characters were presented. They were not glamorized at all. Although it was acknowledged that they were on the wrong side of the law, and old West violence is mentioned, it is done in a very careful way. While there is mention of an outlaw cursing or fighting, no explicit or even questionable words are mentioned in the book. The author is also careful to have the father instructing his son in Biblical and moral values, showing that the saloon and the dishonest men are not proper role models, and even going so far as not allowing his son to carry out small side jobs for the saloon owner.
Recommendations: Overall, I think Badge of Honor strikes a very good balance between childhood adventures, historical teaching, and character training. I would recommend it for fun reading, especially for boys in the 8-12 age group who might be struggling to find books to read that they can relate to. I would also recommend it (and the study guide) for anyone studying the California Gold Rush, to accompany their studies with some light-hearted reading.
To read what other crew members thought, click here, or the banner below: