Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Gold Rush and Riches

Gold Rush and Riches

Paul Robert Walker
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 7 to 9
Kingfisher, 2011   ISBN: 978-0753465127

Like so many thousands of people, John Augustus Sutter wanted to try his luck in a new place, so he left his family in Switzerland “to seek his fortune” in North America. Sutter was given two hundred and twenty-five acres to settle in California and he a built a fort. Needing wood for his many projects, Sutter set about building a saw mill at Colona on the American River. On January 24, 1848 a carpenter working at the saw mill site saw shiny flakes in a channel he was digging and he knew that he was seeing flakes of gold. Sutter and the carpenter, James Marshall, tried to keep their find a secret, but by March word was out and men found rich gold “diggings” downriver from Colona.

   By the end of May, San Francisco had lost a large portion of its population as men and women made a dash for the American River and the goldfields. In those early days the pickings were good and people did indeed make their fortunes. Slowly word traveled across the country that gold had been found in California. By the end of 1848 six thousand people from outside the region had arrived. In 1849 eighty thousand people came to California, eager to find gold and strike it rich. People came over land and by sea, and both journeys were dangerous and took many months to complete.

   What so few of the new arrivals knew was that getting to the goldfields and finding gold was not easy. The miners needed a great deal of expensive supplies, which they had to transport to the goldfields. Once they got there they had to work long and hard if they hoped to get any gold, and there was no guarantee that there was gold on their claim. It was a gamble that could make them rich or that could bankrupt them.

   In this excellent book the author provides readers with an engaging narrative that is accompanied by annotated illustrations and photographs. Each double page spread focuses on a topic, providing readers with an in-depth picture of what the Gold Rush was like, what it might have been like to be there, and how the Gold Rush changed the lives of thousands of people.