When we found out we would have the pleasure of reviewing a new book, we were excited. As a member of the SRC, we received the book Tunnel of Gold, by Susan Marlow and Kregel Publications.
The main character is Jem, actually Jeremiah Coulter, a 12 year old adventurous boy that traveled with his parents and sister, 10yo Ellianna "Ellie" Coulter. Their parents were 49ers, in search of a new life out west and hoped to strike it rich. In the Goldtown Adventure books, Mr. Coulter is offered the position of Sheriff, and he accepts. His panning days are over and keeping the peace was first and foremost. You can read about the characters here. The Coulter's are a christian family which is evidenced throughout the book.
We learn throughout the book the struggles that ensued those that came to California to strike it rich. There were many heartaches, pains, and death. Jem and Ellie's mom died of influenza sometime after getting out west Both characters in the book face difficulties that were common in that era. But the book is not about the difficulties, but about the adventures.
Tunnel of Gold takes Jem, his sister, and his friends on adventures, or should I say misadventures, that are exciting to read through. You will read how Jem experiences gold mining, attempted cattle branding, the struggles and disagreements within the small mining town, and daily chores.
Susan Marlow writes in a way that is easy to read but remains interesting. The language she uses is fitting for the era, which I like. It may be a bit challenging for readers, but it'll keep them on their toes figuring out what the different phrases and vernacular mean. Like surly, woolgathering, coyote hole, cussedness, frog in the puddle, and hobnob. Reading together will allow for discussion and explanation for younger readers.
There is also a free study guide that can be downloaded right from Goldtown Adventures website. This guide offers activities, games, vocabulary, and history lessons for Tunnel of Gold. Like learning about the life of a hard-rock miner, making a miner's stove and donuts, too. The answers are at the back of the study guide along with links to explore more information.
What We Thought: Each of us took time to read Tunnel of Gold. We enjoyed the story line and how Susan Marlow weaved historical facts throughout the book. Reading the book inspired us to do some research of our own. Because this was the second book and we haven't read the first yet, some of the pieces took time to understand, but it's still exciting. Reading the character descriptions on the website helped a lot.
The adventures that Jem chose were fun, and a little dangerous, too. Which made reading fun for my son. They were all typical for the period and Susan Marlow's era oriented language was fun to read.
We utilized the free study guide after reading the book. This allowed us to already have an idea of what the story was about as well as evaluate reading with and without the guide. I must say, the guide really brought out points to think about that we otherwise might have skipped over, or lost along the way. The games and activities were fun and took us back to another era of time. It was fun. The vocabulary listed in the study guide was very useful. In some ways, I wish that we had used the guide along with reading the book the first time, but not using it encouraged us to find our own answers : ^ )
I believe you will find the Goldtown Adventures series a wonderful addition to your library. The 3rd book of the series will be out soon, too. You can read a sample of Tunnel of Gold here.
To read more reviews on Tunnel of Gold and the first book, Badge of Honor, click below.