Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

A Tale of Gold

A Tale of Gold

Thelma Hatch Wyss
Historical Fiction
For ages 8 to 12
Simon and Schuster, 2007   ISBN: 978-1416942122

James Erickson is fourteen years old and an orphan. Since his father died, James has been working as a hack driver on the waterfront in San Francisco. James manages to get by and he likes his work well enough. And then, on the fifteenth of July, 1897, a little less than a year after gold was first discovered in the Klondike Territory, a ship load of people arrive at the waterfront and their bags are stuffed with Klondike gold nuggets.

It seems as if everyone in the city of San Francisco goes gold rush mad. Men abandon their jobs, get themselves outfitted, and head to Alaska. When James loses his job and his accommodations, he decides that he might as well join the rush. Perhaps he will one day be able to come back to San Francisco with gold nuggets spilling out of his bags.

And so James uses some of his father's savings to travel by ship to Alaska with all the supplies he is going to need to get into the Klondike Territory. He knows that it is going to be far from easy to make the journey to the gold fields but nothing could have prepared him for the real thing. Getting his supplies up to the top of the pass is backbreaking and dangerous. Then, as he is struggling to carry loads of supplies up the mountain, one of the people he traveled with on the ship, a young boy called Tip, arrives on the scene. James invites Tip – who has been abandoned by his family after his mother died - to become his partner. Little does James know that Tip is not who he says he is.

This gripping tale about how two children make the journey to the Klondike fields is hard to resist. After reading just a few pages readers will find themselves hooked. They will want to know what happens to James, and to find out if the boy does manage to make the fortune that he is looking for. What makes this book special is that the author has her main character find something far more precious than gold – he finds friendship and a family of sorts in the middle of nowhere.