Gold Rush Girl
Gold Rush Girl
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Annotation: Newbery Medalist Avi brings us mud-caked, tent-filled San Francisco in 1848 with a willful heroine who goes on an uninte... more
Catalog Number: #205744
Format: Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Copyright Date: 2020
Edition Date: 2020
Pages: 306 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: 1-536-20679-2
ISBN 13: 978-1-536-20679-1
Dewey: Fic
Dimensions: 22 cm.
Language: English
Horn Book
At the midpoint of the nineteenth century, thirteen-year-old Victoria Blaisdell endures the stifling existence of a proper young lady. Initially comfortable financially, Tory's family hits rock bottom when her father loses his job and decides to sail to the California gold fields to regain his fortune. Taking a line from her beloved Jane Eyre ("Your will shall decide your destiny"), Tory chooses to accompany Father and younger brother Jacob--as a stowaway, disguised as a boy. At this point, readers will have to suspend disbelief, for after two days at sea, Tory sheds her disguise but somehow travels undetected (only three other women are on board) for seven months. Upon their arrival in San Francisco (with its shockingly squalid, overcrowded living conditions), Father takes off for the gold fields, leaving Tory in charge of Jacob's care and responsible for finding work. She makes three friends: Thad, a young man from Maine; Senor Rosales, owner of a nearby restaurant; and Sam, an African American bugle player performing in the local saloons. Tory's self-liberation and her relationships with both Senor Rosales and Sam are tinged with twenty-first-century sensibilities but nonetheless underscore her spunk and independence. When a thug (or crimp, in the local vernacular) kidnaps Jacob to force him into maritime service, it's up to Tory, Thad, and Sam to find him. Readers are thrust into a rip-roaring adventure, filled with suspense and danger, and open-ended enough for a sequel.
Kirkus Reviews
Tory encounters the independence and adventure she longs for in the untamed city of San Francisco in 1849.Thirteen-year-old narrator Victoria Blaisdell, known to her family as Tory, lives a comfortably privileged life in mid-19th-century Providence, Rhode Island. She is frustrated and constrained by the influence of her maternal aunt, Lavinia, who believes that girls are to take care of boys and should be educated only at home. But when Tory's father loses his position and wages and decides to seek gold in California, Tory stows away on the ship that will take him and her fretful younger brother, Jacob, on the seven-month journey to San Francisco. There, Tory finds work to keep herself and Jacob going while their father heads off to the gold fields. When Jacob is kidnapped to be a cabin boy for a ship heading out of the Golden Gate, Tory must appeal to her new friend Thad from Maine and to Sam, a wary young black man from Sag Harbor, New York, to help her navigate an underworld of gambling, rogues, and abandoned ships. Sam and Señor Rosales, who runs the cafe near Tory and Jacob's tent, are the only nonwhite principal characters. Tory is the only girl. Avi evokes Gold Rush-era San Francisco through Tory's eyes with empathy and clarity while keeping the action lively.A splendidly exciting and accessible historical adventure. (Historical fiction. 10-13)
Publishers Weekly
Writing from a young woman-s perspective, Newbery Medalist Avi brings California-s Gold Rush to life in this historical adventure. Thirteen-year-old Victoria (Tory) is tired of stifling social conventions in 19th-century Providence, R.I. When her father and younger brother, Jacob, leave for San Francisco, where they plan to find a fortune, she escapes by stowing away on their ship. Once united, the family is shocked to discover that -the land of glittering gold- is really a filthy place of squalor and crime. Left alone to care for Jacob while her father works in the gold fields, Tory casts aside restrictive gender roles, dressing like a boy, working odd jobs, and spending time with her new friend, Thad. She enjoys her freedom until Jacob disappears while she-s out, and she fears that he-s been kidnapped. Desperate to find Jacob, Tory follows every path, despite the risks. Containing strong feminist themes, this fast-paced tale vividly contrasts the wildness of 19th-century San Francisco with stuffier New England. Tory is a brave yet naive protagonist, who makes a number of mistakes before proving herself a hero, and her dangerous encounters with unscrupulous villains provide nonstop excitement and suspense. Ages 10-14. (Mar.)
School Library Journal
Gr 46 Gold rush fever brings 13-year-old Tori, her father, and her younger brother Jacob to 1849 San Francisco. The untamed town is a world away from their staid life in Providence, but headstrong Tori embraces the move. Like her literary heroine Jane Eyre, Tori longs for a life of adventure. After their father leaves for the gold fields, Tori and Jacob fend for themselves in a city where the vulnerable are often exploited. Jacob's sudden disappearance compels Tori to set aside her dreams of independence and find her brother. Avi once more proves himself a master of historical fiction, effectively using Tori's search to immerse readers in the city's sights and sounds. Fully realized supporting characters reflect the mélange of cultures and dreams that brought people to California in search of gold. Tori is more than the "spunky girl ahead of her time" trope; she's a daughter, a sister, a friend, and an individual who is set on achieving her dreams but not at the expense of others. Avi speaks through Tori to convey appreciation for libraries, literature, and the true value of reading: "It is not to learn about others . It is to learn about oneself." VERDICT Tori discovers adventure in the novel's taut, suspenseful narrative, and self-determination in the final scene, which leaves readers' spirits as full as the sails on the little boat that carries her toward the future. A first purchase for all middle grade libraries. Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* Life for the Blaisdell family in 1840s Providence, Rhode Island, is nice and normal, but this state of affairs chafes at 13-year-old Victoria (Tory), who yearns for adventure. She's frustrated by the lack of opportunities in Providence, including not being allowed to attend school. Tory snatches education where she can, learning to read from her mother and having her younger brother, Jacob, share his lessons with her. The family's stability abruptly ends when her father loses his accounting job and her mother becomes ill. Father chooses to take Jacob with him to San Francisco to join the California gold rush, but Tory's determined not to be left behind. With her mother's permission, Tory secretly stows away on board the ship. The three face life as they've never known it, one marked by mud, tents, and lawlessness. When Father heads to the gold fields, leaving Tory and Jacob alone in San Francisco, Tory resents being in charge of Jacob. But when her brother goes missing, she launches a frantic search to find him. With his characteristically suspenseful style, Avi crafts a rousing historical adventure helmed by a spirited protagonist whom readers will love. Tory's first-person narration further connects readers to the gold rush era story, which concludes with room for future exploits. One of Avi's best.
Reviewing Agencies: - Find Other Reviewed Titles
Starred Review ALA Booklist
Horn Book (4/1/20)
Kirkus Reviews
Publishers Weekly
School Library Journal (3/1/20)
Word Count: 62,331
Reading Level: 5.1
Interest Level: 5-9
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 5.1 / points: 9.0 / quiz: 507343 / grade: Middle Grades
Lexile: 730L
Have you ever been struck by lightning?
I have.
I write not of the sparkling that bolts from the sky, but of gold, the yellow metal buried in the earth and the shatter -- wit world of those who seek it. That world turned me topsy -- turvy, so that I did things I never dreamed I would or could do.
It began, fittingly, in a leap year: 1848. I was thirteen years old.
My family -- ​Father (Randolph Blaisdell); Mother (Abigail Pell Blaisdell); my younger brother, Jacob; and I, Victoria, most often called Tory -- ​was residing in the smallest state in these United States: Rhode Island. We had a home in Providence, the state's major city, with its fine buildings, wealth, tranquility, and a population of forty thousand.
Our home was 15 Sheldon Street, a modest but agreeable wooden house on the east side of town. It stood upon "The Hill," as it was smartly called, above commercial Wickenden Street. We had a cook and one servant, both of whom lived in our attic.
Our lives were comfortable, with nothing unusual ever happening. Indeed, my early family life was untroubled, as smooth as Chinese silk. I questioned nothing, not about the world or about myself. My entire universe was Sheldon Street, which meant I knew everyone as they knew me. As for my social life, it consisted of calling and receiving among a small group of proper neighbor­hood girls.
As one grows up, it can take a while to understand that sometimes it is not your mother or father who have the greatest influence on your life. Thus it was but gradually that I came to realize that the person who shaped my life more than any other was my mother's older sister, Aunt Lavinia.
Since the two sisters were from the distinguished Rhode Island Pell family, Lavinia already considered herself quite the queen. Then, before I was born, she married Quincy Fellows, a wealthy Pawtucket cloth-factory owner. That made her -- ​in her mind -- ​an empress.
A tall, big woman, with hanging coils of braid alongside her puffy face, which peered out from a deep, dark bonnet, she wore long, wide gowns with bulging sleeves, a shape that made me think of her as a walking mountain, and a volcano at that. Indeed, she constantly erupted with lava-­like judgments, advice, and instructions as to how my family should live our lives. All of which is to say, while my mother and father raised me, their words were almost always prefaced by "As your aunt Lavinia suggests . . ."
One of Aunt Lavinia's judgments -- ​which I was shocked to discover -- ​was that my mother had lowered her station in life by marrying my father.
Father was a man of middle age and modest height. Quite portly, he had a round, smooth, shaved face and fair hair brushed with care. His soft pink hands -- ​somewhat ink stained -- ​were what you would expect of someone who wielded pen, not pickax. At home or at work, he attired himself in common gentleman's fashion -- ​English frock coat, vest, knotted neck cloth, tan pants, and tall black silk hat.
He worked as an accountant for Pratt and Willinghast, a respectable trading business, which had its offices on Peck Street in the middle of Providence. Significantly, it was a position secured for him by Aunt Lavinia's husband, a fact which she did not let Father (or Mother) forget.
Still, after ten years of service, Father received a silver pocket watch in recognition of his good work. He liked to bring it out at regular intervals so as to suggest that he was a busy man. In fact, I came to understand it was displayed mostly to show Aunt Lavinia that he was worthy. But then, as I came to realize, Father's highest ambition was to become acceptable to Aunt Lavinia, and he chose to do so by agreeing to all her advice and judgments.
As for my mother, she had a kind­hearted, loving nature and looked after us all, trying her best to shield us from her sister's dictates. By way of personal occupation, other than supervising her children's upbringing and managing the household, she had her reading (popular romances such as The Betrothed) and needlework to do. Yet while Mother was a quiet soul, sometimes, when I watched her sewing, it seemed as if she were frustrated with her life and used her needle to pierce the fabric of her world.
Exasperated by my parents' constant deference to Aunt Lavinia, it was upon my younger brother, Jacob, that I bestowed my deepest affections. More than anyone else, he was willing to listen to my endless prattle. Most of all, he didn't criticize me. We were as close as kin can be, and I enjoyed his company greatly.
Jacob -- ​four years younger than I -- ​had a pleasing, apple­cheeked sweetness. An earnest, serious, almost solemn boy, he was not given to mischief. When he played with his school friends, he did so quietly, without much zest.
He was fond of music and enjoyed whistling the popular songs of the day. That said, his whistling told me that he was troubled. Whereas Jacob considered me hot-brained, he fretted far too much, and worry made him agitated.
Jacob appeared to be the least bothered by how much our lives were governed by my aunt. But then it was Jacob of whom Aunt Lavinia most approved. She, who had no children of her own, once said, "Jacob is a perfect child. He is quiet and does what he is told. We should all encourage Victoria to be more like her brother."
Once she informed me, "You should know, Victoria, that someday Jacob will be the head of the family and you will need to defer to him."
Young though I was, I was much distressed and replied, "Jacob shall have his life. I shall have mine."

Excerpted from Gold Rush Girl by Avi
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Newbery Medalist Avi brings us mud-caked, tent-filled San Francisco in 1848 with a willful heroine who goes on an unintended — and perilous — adventure to save her brother.

Victoria Blaisdell longs for independence and adventure, and she yearns to accompany her father as he sails west in search of real gold! But it is 1848, and Tory isn’t even allowed to go to school, much less travel all the way from Rhode Island to California. Determined to take control of her own destiny, Tory stows away on the ship. Though San Francisco is frenzied and full of wild and dangerous men, Tory finds freedom and friendship there. Until one day, when Father is in the gold fields, her younger brother, Jacob, is kidnapped. And so Tory is spurred on a treacherous search for him in Rotten Row, a part of San Francisco Bay crowded with hundreds of abandoned ships. Beloved storyteller Avi is at the top of his form as he ushers us back to an extraordinary time of hope and risk, brought to life by a heroine readers will cheer for. Spot-on details and high suspense make this a vivid, absorbing historical adventure.

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