I Witness: Hard Gold: The Colorado Gold Rush of 1859: A Tale of the Old West

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9781423105190: I Witness: Hard Gold: The Colorado Gold Rush of 1859: A Tale of the Old West

Early Whitcomb's family needs a miracle.  Their Iowa farm has been in the family for generations, but a long drought has withered their savings and left them in debt.  Meanwhile, the great Chicago and Northwestern Railroad wants their land, and if the Whitcombs can't pay their loans, the local banker, Judge Fuslin, will foreclose and sell the farm as his own.   Early's uncle (though he's more like a brother), Jesse, thinks he has the solution: to head West and dig for gold. Fueled by reports of prospectors striking it rich in the Rocky Mountains, Jesse can't think about anything but gold, and his determination to get to the western territories grows stronger by the day.  Early is wild to go with him, as much for the adventure as for the gold.  But the journey costs money--more than the boys can afford--and when Jesse flees during the night, after being accused of a robbery, Early doesn't know what to believe.  Then Jesse sends an electrifying message--that he has found gold, but his life is in danger--and Early knows he must do whatever it takes to find him, even if it means running away and joining a wagon train with a strange family.  The journey is dangerous and full of hardships, and the closer the travelers get to their destination, the more ruined lives they encounter--lives consumed by the hunt for gold.  Then to his horror, Early learns that Jesse has been accused of another, much bigger crime and has fled to a secret place in the mountains.  Somehow, Early must get to him without leading Jesse's pursuers right to his door.  And even if he succeeds, Early will still have to make the hardest choice of his life. 

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About the Author:

Avi's books are loved by kids and adults everywhere. He has written more than 60 books, several of which have garnered prestigious awards, including the Newbery Award and two Newbery Honors. His titles with Hyperion includeIron Thunder,Crispin: The Cross of Lead, Crispin: At the Edge of the World,andThe Book WithoutWords.He lives with his family in Colorado.

From School Library Journal:

Grade 4–7—Fourteen-year-old Early Whitcomb's family is trying desperately to hold onto their Iowa farm during hard times. The local banker is pressuring the Whitcombs to sell their land to the Chicago and North Western railway, promising to foreclose on their mortgage if they refuse. This prompts Early's Uncle Jesse, 19, to head west and find gold, disappearing under suspicion of bank robbery. After he writes that he has found gold but suspects that it will be stolen, Early sneaks away and signs on to a wagon train destined for Cherry Creek and Pike's Peak. A representative of the railroad is also traveling with the wagon trains, and the boy suspects that he wants to find Jesse and prevent him from helping his family save the farm. Early makes an unlikely ally in Lizzy Bunderly, the free-spirited daughter of his wagon-train employer, and the two friends face heartache, hardship, and loss while learning the value of endurance on this journey that takes them across the wild, unsettled territory. The novel deals with difficult times in the life of a young person, but emphasizes Early's optimism and hope for better days. The lessons he learns as a result of the choices he makes, as opposed to those made by his uncle, reveal the importance of making decisions wisely. The period reproductions add much to the understanding of an earlier way of life. The chapters are short and broken up into diary format so as to mimic travel journals of the early wagon train adventurers. A rewarding addition.—Debra Banna, Sharon Public Library, MA
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