When we were offered the chance to review the first two books in Susan K. Marlow’s new Goldtown Beginnings Series from Kregel Publications, I jumped at the offer. We have read a number of her other books; I reviewed her Circle C Stepping Stones series a couple of years ago, so I knew my younger children would be excited to get these. Sure enough, they were! Little Miss (age 4) was thrilled when she saw them the day they came in the mail, and she spent a lot of time studying the pictures. She also made sure she was on hand to hear the stories each day when I read the books aloud!
Book 1, Jem Strikes Gold, 8-year-old Jeremiah has a problem. Every week, he and his 6-year-old sister have to deliver pies for their mother, who bakes them for the restaurants and gold miners in Goldtown. That wouldn’t be a problem, but the rich boy in town likes to cause trouble for them—and one day most of Mama’s pies are ruined! Then, Strike-it-rich Sam comes home from a prospecting trip with a golden dog. Jem hasn’t found any gold in his claim, but will Pa and Mama let him keep the dog? And what will Jem do about the pie problem?
Jem’s Frog Fiasco, book 2, presents Jem with an altogether different problem. A café owner wants Jem to catch frogs for him. This sounds like an easy way to make some money! The problem with this scheme, though, is that Mama wants Jem to take care of his younger sister Ellie, and when he is mean to her because she makes it hard for him to catch the frogs, she runs off and hides. Can he find her?
I liked almost everything about these books. As with Susan K. Marlow’s other books, these do well at attracting young readers. They are very simply written, but very interesting. They appeal to the 6-8-year-old range especially, but as I said before, my 4-year-old loved to hear them read aloud. The 10-year-old enjoyed them, too. The one thing I noticed that I didn’t like so well was Jem’s exclamation, “Roasted rattlesnakes!,” used 2-3 times per book. I liked the way Jem tried to please his parents. He loved his little sister, even though he was annoyed with her, and admitted his wrong in not watching over her as he should have. I also liked that the stories, though fictitious, are set in a real place and time—the California goldfields during the Gold Rush. Just by reading the story, we learned how gold is panned and that it was rare to actually find “color.” This is a series I will be watching for, so I can buy the rest of the books. We were all happy to have received these books!
On the author’s website, there are downloadable activities to go along with each of the books. These activities include language arts, history, and geography projects, as well as just fun things like mazes. There are also coloring pages to download. When Little Miss learned about them, she wanted one immediately! I made her a coloring book with the pages, which are simply the illustrations from the book. If you have beginning readers in your home and need more books that they can read, that will catch their interest, check out the Goldtown Beginnings Series! The learning activities that are available would make an easy way to get some other learning in, as well.