Wagon Train Kids Headed West for Gold
Written by K.B. Shaper
Middle-grade historical fiction tale focusing on Jack and his younger sister Mary. The family lives on a farm in Connecticut. One day the children are shocked to learn that their parents are selling everything and heading West on a wagon train in the hopes of finding gold in the California hills. The author traces the journey as the family heads north to Albany and then west to Missouri. There they meet Mr. Booth, the wagon master who will guide them to California.
Shaper goes into detail about the supplies and the preparation needed to prepare for the journey. I do think more time should have been spent describing in detail what the children saw on the journey. In that respect the plot is a bit uneven. One night the members of the wagon train observe someone watching them. Jack and Mary are warned to run if their father signals them. The adventure begins when the children become separated from their parents and are left on their own. A kindly stranger rescues them and brings them into San Francisco, where they work to earn their keep. Will the children be reunited with their parents and what happened to the rest of the members of the wagon train?
The story ends abruptly, if satisfactorily. Some readers may question whether telling the children to run and hide and that they will be found when the danger has passed is a realistic scenario. The plot features a traditional nuclear family story with a bit of history about the mid-nineteenth century, but may be short of adventure for some 21st century readers. I would still recommend it as an easy chapter book for early middle-grade readers. Teachers might use it as a read aloud to supplement this period of American history.
Barbara Ann Mojica