West from the Cradle
by Brigid Amos
GENRE: YA Historical Fiction
Travis Cooper was not meant to be a prospector. Small for his age, he has never been much help on the family farm in Missouri. How could he survive the journey west to take up such backbreaking work? But when he sees a copy of the California Star in the fall of 1848, everything changes. One shining word jumps off the page: GOLD! Now staying alive is a struggle. Keeping his partner from getting himself killed is even harder!
Travis paid for the nails and was almost out the door when Hillerman called to him and beckoned for him to come back to the counter. “Come here a second, son. I want to show you something.” Reaching down behind the counter, the shopkeeper pulled out a stack of newspapers. “Melvin Ellerbee brought me these newspapers from St. Joe. It’s this one I wanted you to see.” Hillerman handed Travis the newspaper on the top of the stack.
“California Star,” Travis murmured. “This newspaper’s from California?”
“It’s from San Francisco to be precise. That newspaper was sent out this way by the editor, a Mr. Brannan of San Francisco, to recruit new American Californians. Clever fellow, that Brannan. What I wanted you to see was this article by Victor something or other. His name’s French I guess. Here, look!” Hillerman pointed to an article on the front page.
As Travis skimmed the article, one shining word jumped right off the page. “Gold?” he asked, looking up at the shopkeeper for confirmation.
“Gold!” Hillerman said. “They found gold in the American River. I figure there’s more where that came from, and there must be plenty of other rivers and streams out there that have it in them.”
“Those folks are lucky, aren’t they? I’d call that being in the right place at the right time.”
“They’re lucky all right. But so will be those who emigrate out there this spring. It sounds like there’s plenty to go around.”
Travis put the newspaper down and searched Hillerman’s face. “Is that what you’re thinking of doing? Going out there to California?”
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AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Brigid Amos’ young adult historical fiction has appeared in The MacGuffin, The Storyteller, Wilderness House Literary Review, and Words of Wisdom. Her first novel, A Fence Around Her, was published by Clean Reads in 2016. A produced playwright, she co-founded the Angels Playwriting Collective and serves on the boards of Angels Theatre Company and Women Writing the West. She is also an active member the Nebraska Writers Guild. Although Brigid left a nugget of her heart behind in the California Gold Country, most of it is in Lincoln, Nebraska where she currently lives with her husband.
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3.75 out of 5 stars
West From the Cradle by Brigid Amos is a young adult historical novel that provides a glimpse of the sacrifice and determination that characterized the exodus to participate in the California Gold Rush. Young Travis Cooper gets caught up in the frenzy and has to cope with remarkable changes that he will need to adapt to or be chewed up by the craziness.
There are fascinating aspects to this story that gives a different perspective on the sacrifices, harsh life, and difficult choices that characterized life during this time. The author offers several examples of the way life changes in an instant and gives insight into the highs and lows that accompany the arduous process of gathering gold from the barely civilized region of California. I was particularly entertained to learn the implications of the phrase, "Watching the grass grow." The casual bigotry demonstrated is heartbreaking and it was eye-opening to be reminded what a precarious position women could occupy. The points of view hop around and there are sometimes abrupt shifts in time and scene which I found disconcerting but I was particularly frustrated by the end because it is somewhat of a cliffhanger.
I think this is a fun story that will help youngsters understand a bit more about our amazing history and the fever that struck and changed so many lives.
A copy of this title was provided to me for review