From School Library Journal
Grades 4-7--Talk of gold is all around as Sarah's father prepares to depart from Massachusetts for the hills of California, leaving three children and their mother to face the reality of crops, loans, and making ends meet. Letters from California are few and far between and the fate of her father is crucial to Sarah, who has to accept more responsibility. Longing for approval and warmth from her mother, she struggles to run the household and take care of her siblings. When a fire breaks out in the barn and she is severely burned rescuing the animals and her brother, the whole family moves to her wealthy grandfather's house in town. Hurst manages to keep sight of the child's perspective and longings while gradually uncovering the adult issues in the situation. The mother's desire to be independent and the father's reckless spirit are gradually explored. Sarah discovers the love of her mother in the daily attention and care so necessary after her injury. The girl's growth is so natural and gradual that the other characters' development seems equally realistic, giving the book surprising depth. This is a quiet story full of historical details and with a core of emotional truth. An antidote to gold fever.Carol A. Edwards, Sonoma County Library, Santa Rosa, CA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 4-6. Sarah, 11, is heartbroken when her beloved father leaves their small Massachusetts farm to join the California gold rush. She blames her stern, distant mother for his not taking the family with him on the thrilling adventure ("she spoils everything"). He promises to be back soon with bags of gold, but the months go by, his letters stop coming, and there's news of his death. Mother takes a job in the nearby whip factory. Sarah takes care of the household, and she saves her younger brother from a barn fire. There are big holes in the plot--after Father leaves, rich Grandfather suddenly appears in the story--but, as in Hurst's historical novel Through the Lock
(2001), the excitement is in the characters and the sense of the times. The role of women is central to the story, especially Sarah's relationship with her uptight mother, but there are no sermons. The spare writing leaves space. Is Sarah's father a liar and deserter? Does her mother love him? Who is brave? Hazel RochmanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved