Tuesday, November 5, 2019

My Son Devoured Goldtown Beginnings Books! {A Jem Strikes Gold & Jem’s Frog Fiasco Kregel Publications Review}

If you are looking for fun, historical fiction that will capture your child's attention, I 100% suggest the Goldtown Beginnings Series by Susan K. Marlow (also known for her Circle C Adventures series and Circle C Beginnings Series) from Kregel Publications.

As soon as the first two paperback books in the series - Jem Strikes Gold & Jem’s Frog Fiasco - came into our home, my youngest son devoured them!

Then, excited by the books, my son and I took a look at The Circle C Adventures website, where we found free activities and a writing contest. My son immediately asked if he could enter it and began dictating his Goldtown Beginnings-inspired story to me with excitement.

I could not be happier that my enjoyed the Goldtown Beginnings books and has been inspired by them to write his own story. Fantastic!

My son also happily answered interview questions about the books for this review.

Jem Strikes Gold

Why did you want these books?

Because they sounded interesting.

What sounded interesting?

I like the time period - the 1800's with the Gold Rush, things being invented... So, I thought the Gold Rush part would be interesting and I like dogs.

Which one did you read first?

Jem Strikes Gold. I read it all in one morning! It's a quick read that I think is for kids younger than me, but I still enjoyed it.

Can you narrate the story for me?

Okay. But, first, a spoiler alert: Jem does not actually strike gold. He strikes a dog named Gold Nugget.

The book is about a kid named Jem in the Gold Rush who is seven and his little sister Ellie who is six. They live in a tent with their family.

They are panning for gold and their mom bakes pies, and they give them to the miners, who pay them gold nuggets.

There is a bully named Will, and Jem is not allowed to punch the bully or get in a fight with him or else Jem will have to memorize something like four Bible verses.

Their dad's friend went away for three weeks and came back with a dog. Jem and his little sister want to keep the dog, and Jem thinks his Pa would want to keep the dog, too, if they had food. But Mama  does not want the dog because they don't have enough food, and Pa is on her side. But, then, the dog protects Jem from the bully, and they are allowed to keep him.

I see on the back cover that is says "Take a look inside for history, mystery, and a whole lot of fun!"  What is the history?

There are two pages at the back that tell about the Gold Rush. I did not learn anything from them, because I already knew about the Gold Rush, but other kids might learn if they don't already know the basics.

For me, the story helps me imagine being in that time period. I have been reading and listening to a lot of Gold Rush stuff lately and like this, too.

This book would be good a book to introduce younger kids to this time period.

How about the mystery?

There isn't really isn't a big one. But, Strike-it-rich Sam says a tiny bit about not knowing where the dog came from, but nothing else. They don't try to find out and i want to know.

But, is there another mystery or a question that the story revolves around?

There is a just a question, not a mystery. Mysteries are usually unsolved or hard to solve. The question in this book is: Can Jem keep the dog?

How is it solved?

They keep him, because he scared the bully away.

How about the "whole lot of fun"? Did you think the book was?

Yes, even if it was young for me.

What was your favorite part?

The time period!

Jem's Frog Fiasco

How about Book 2, Jem's Frog Fiasco, when did you read that?

I read it the same day I read the first book.

Did you like it?

Yes. It was as good as the first.

Can you tell me about it?

It was about Jem. He wanted food for his dog, but couldn't get any, so he went to deliver pies to make money. He also found this guy who would give him five cents for every frog that he caught, because the guy wanted to make fried frog legs.

So, Jem went the first time, but didn't catch any frogs. He went the second time and was told to watch after his sister, but she ran off and got lost when he was catching the frogs.

Jem thought she went home and came home with a ton of frogs, but his parents told him that he had to let them out into the river, because they would not survive in the bucket. He did and they found out his sister was lost.

So, they got a whole band of miners to look for her. Jem looked in all her hiding spots, but then, found her in a coyote home and brought her back home.

Did Jem ever get the money?

No, because all the frogs were in the river.

Was there more mystery in this one?

Yes, finding Jem's sister.

Would you recommend this book?

Yes. I recommend it for second through third graders. I'm in fourth grade, and think it was easy, but good.

Is there anything else you'd like to say about this series?

There is more of it! I would be interested in reading more. I liked these books a lot and I want to write my own story now!

A Few More Thoughts

You can see from the interview with my 9-year-old that the Goldtown Beginnings books are wonderful short living literature paperbacks for younger reads which capture attention while immersing children in 1859 California at the time of the Gold Rush.  

The books, written by a former Christian school teacher and home educator, also have some extra features to make them super homeschool friendly.

They open with lists of new words, which can, of course, help with vocabulary development and comprehension. These words can also be used for guessing games and acting out.

Black-and-white illustrations sprinkled throughout the books are engaging and help readers better imagine the story and characters.

Pages at the end of each book give more information about the time period for those who like to dig deeper.

Morals and values are evident throughout the stories.

The books can make a jumping off point for further study. In fact, the author offers free activity and coloring pages on the Circle C website. These can be used for extra fun and learning or to flesh out a unit study. There is even a weekly schedule provided for download which can be used in conjunction with a related lapbook that you could purchase separately.

All these extra goodies mean that the Goldtown Beginning Series can simply provide a fun, adventure-filled, historical reading experience or a fuller study - whichever fits your needs.

I am delighted to have discovered this book series and 
The Circle C Adventures website! The books - and the story my son is writing after being inspired by them - have added fun and learning to our homeschool endeavors this year.

If you have young readers who like dogs, history, and adventure, I recommend checking out 
the Goldtown Beginning Series! You can read sample chapters here.
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