Gold Rush Girl

320p. Candlewick. Mar. 2020. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781536206791.
Gr 4-6–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.

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