Thursday, July 18, 2013

Review of Susan Marlow's Tunnel of Gold

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The Crew is no stranger to Susan Marlow and Kregel Publications, so I was very excited when I got the opportunity to review one of her new books, Tunnel of Gold (sample chapters from Tunnel of Gold are available online!). Tunnel of Gold is the second in a new series of books called Goldtown Adventures. The series centers around a twelve year-old boy, Jem Coulter, his sister, and their father, a sheriff. The family lives in California in 1864 (toward the end of the gold rush period).

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Tunnel of Gold tells the story of Jem's dilemma as he tries to do what is right during a miner's riot. The mine has run out of gold, but the miner's owner's son proposes a solution to Jem that might save the mine - and the town. Unfortunately, that solution would require compromising the scavenging rights of the Chinese miners working the diggings of an abandoned mine. How Jem and Will (the owner's son) negotiate the dilemma and the other problems that arise in the book (for example, if you try branding calves without permission and you get away with it, do you confess or be grateful that you didn't get caught? What if you end up getting caught after all?) make for a very enjoyable and exciting read.

Tunnel of Gold is recommended for 8-12 year olds and costs $7.99. The age recommendation is right-on, and the price is a fair one, especially if you consider that Susan Marlow has made available a comprehensive study guide for the book, available online. The study guide has matching questions, puzzles, comprehension questions, and more. Both the book and the study guide are unabashedly (but not obnoxiously, if that makes sense) Christian.

When I gave Michael (8) Tunnel of Gold to read, he was very happy. It took him 3-4 days to finish the book and he only had two complaints. First, he was a little dismayed that he didn't get to read the first book in the series first. I told him to get over it ;-)  Second, he disliked Jem's name. I told him to get over it. Apart from those two minor flaws (neither of which is remotely related to plot, character development, or anything else important), he really enjoyed the book! He loves reading historical fiction from this time period, so I knew it would be an easy sell. His only experience with mining comes from touring silver mines in CO, so I thought he would probably be pretty interested in learning something about gold mining in CA, and I was not wrong.

Because we have enough school reading, we treated Tunnel of Gold purely as pleasure reading because, well, it is a pleasure to read! For that reason, I did not use the study guide. However, this book would make an excellent accompaniment to a study on California at this time, or on the gold rush, or on the element Au. It would also be great to use as a study of character, as Jem negotiates several difficult decisions during the course of the book.

So far, there are two books in the Goldtown Adventures series, but Book 3 is forthcoming. Appealing equally to boys or girls, this series would make a great addition to your homeschool library. Be sure to read what other families thought of these books by clicking the banner below.


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  1. I looked for your name, but couldn't find it easily, so I'll just say, Thank you, Mrs. Administrator of "Salve Regina Academy," for your lovely review of Tunnel. I just chuckled at your DS's complaints. The first one is "great. He wants to read the other book." And with Jem's name . . . well, the honest truth is I swiped the name from To Kill a Mockingbird. I always liked that name, so then I found a Bible name it could be a nickname for. Kinda backwards, I know, but hey . . . just like parents, we get to name our babies. :-)

    Anyway, thanks again, and I'm glad the book was a hit.

    Susan Marlow
    (My blogger account is set on the blog the character from my girls' historical "writes," so don't be confused. It's really me.)

  2. Oops! I just saw you name. Laura. Well, better late than never. Have a blessed Lord's Day.

  3. Thanks for the comment, Mrs. Marlow! I love To Kill a Mockingbird, and now that I know that is the genesis of Jem's name, Michael can doubly get over it. Plus, you're absolutely right: parents get to name their babies! I recognized Andi Carter's name right away, so I was very excited to see you commenting on my blog. Thanks for reading my review of your book. We'll be reading the whole series!