Hard Gold: The Colorado Gold Rush of 1859 (I Witness Series). By Avi. 4 CDs. 4:00 hrs. AudioGo. 2012. ISBN 978-1-935430-84-1. $49.95.
Gr 5-8--Early Whitcomb's family is in danger of losing their farm. They're behind in their payments, and a local banker is working with the railroad company to force them into selling. Early's young uncle, Jesse, thinks he has the answer. Handbills from the West indicate that gold has been found in Pike's Peak, Nebraska Territory, and it's there for the taking. Early's parents and older brother discount the reports, but Jesse and Early have the itch. Jesse soon sneaks off (under a cloud of suspicion due to a coincidentally timed bank robbery) to strike gold and save the farm. Early's family forbids him to follow, but when word arrives that Jesse has found gold and is in danger, he strikes out alone, joining a wagon train as a hired hand for a barber, his ailing wife, and feisty daughter. The grueling journey, a budding romance, and the possible ill intentions of fellow travelers add suspense and intrigue as Early learns how desperation and circumstances can change the course of one's life. The historical focus of Avi's novel (Hyperion, 2008) is broad. The endless wagon trains are likened to advancing lines of tiny white ants, but individual hardships are presented with considerably less detail. Dialogue and behaviors ring true, and the narration by Alston Brown is clear and pleasing. The diary style is well-suited for audio format. Similar to the "My Name Is America" series, Hard Gold brings history alive, particularly for boys.
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