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I Witness: Hard Gold: The Colorado Gold Rush of 1859: A Tale of the Old West by Avi- 4 stars!

Today's Tea Choice: Spice and Tea Exchange Pumpkin Spice Chai

Trigger Warnings: death, survival, hardship, hunting, some animal abuse

Genre: YA/ Middle Grade historical fiction

Pages: 240


Early Whitcomb's family needs a miracle. Their Iowa farm has been in the family for generations, but a long drought has withered their savings and left them in debt. Meanwhile, the great Chicago and Northwestern Railroad wants their land, and if the Whitcombs can't pay their loans, the local banker, Judge Fuslin, will foreclose and sell the farm as his own. Early's uncle (though he's more like a brother), Jesse, thinks he has the to head West and dig for gold. Fueled by reports of prospectors striking it rich in the Rocky Mountains, Jesse can't think about anything but gold, and his determination to get to the western territories grows stronger by the day. Early is wild to go with him, as much for the adventure as for the gold. But the journey costs money--more than the boys can afford--and when Jesse flees during the night, after being accused of a robbery, Early doesn't know what to believe. Then Jesse sends an electrifying message--that he has found gold, but his life is in danger--and Early knows he must do whatever it takes to find him, even if it means running away and joining a wagon train with a strange family. The journey is dangerous and full of hardships, and the closer the travelers get to their destination, the more ruined lives they encounter--lives consumed by the hunt for gold. Then to his horror, Early learns that Jesse has been accused of another, much bigger crime and has fled to a secret place in the mountains. Somehow, Early must get to him without leading Jesse's pursuers right to his door. And even if he succeeds, Early will still have to make the hardest choice of his life.

My Review:

Another great historical novel written by Avi! As I've mentioned before, Avi is a master storyteller for historical fiction. If you've ever wondered how difficult it was to settle out west, be prepared for this difficult journey alongside Early.

What I loved:

POV: Most of Avi's novels are written in first person POV with the exceptional third person. This novel is written in first person POV through young Early's eyes, which creates an authentic and very realistic narration style. I felt as if I was sitting next to Early when he becomes an old man and is retelling his harrowing journey and life-changing realization about Jesse.

Setting/Historical Context: The setting of this story takes place in the mid-1800s during a historical gold rush. At this time, many people in Early's town were getting their houses evicted or foreclosed, especially because a railroad company was buying all of the surrounding land. Because of this, we see the character's desperation to save his family, but how could a young 13 year do anything?

Characters: One of my favorite characters is Lizzy. She is a young girl, repressed from doing anything or learning any skills by her sickly mother because it's considered "unladylike." Despite this, Lizzy still helps with the difficult crossing across the country and defies her mother. We see a slow transformation into freedom as she nears the mining town. The only jarring quality about her characterization is despite wanting to be productive, she also wants to be rich and have fine things in life when she becomes an adult.

Early was also another awesome character. Can you imagine traveling across the United States with a family you didn't know to save your own? I admired Early's determination and bravery as well, especially his love for Jesse. There was also a minor romance and deep friendship between Lizzy and Early.

What Needed Improvement:

I don't believe anything in this story needed improvement. I truly enjoyed the book and just wanted to see an epilogue to show us if Lizzy and Early ever started a life together!

Authors Can Learn:

- The importance of researching authentic historical settings

- How to create memorable yet flawed YA protagonists

Readers Will Love This For:

A thrilling journey about survival during the mid- 1800's about the gold rush.

I give this book 4 stars!



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