Published by Candlewick
Summary: Victoria (Tory) lives with her parents and younger brother, Jacob, in Providence, RI, where she chafes under the expectations of her parents and strict Aunt Lavinia. When her father loses his job and proposes going west with Jacob to seek gold, Tory sneaks on board their boat, revealing herself only when it’s too late to turn back. The three of them are dismayed by the primitive living conditions, filth, and lawlessness of San Francisco. Determined to improve their fortunes, Father leaves Jacob and Tory in a temporary tent home and heads out to the gold fields. Tory starts dressing as a boy and finding carpentry work to support her and her brother, while Jacob grows more and more despondent about their situation. One day, Tory gets delayed working; when she returns after midnight, Jacob is gone. She learns that he may have been kidnapped to be used as a cabin boy on a ship heading back east. Hundreds of abandoned ships, called Rotten Row, sit in San Francisco Bay. It’s up to Tory and her new friends Thad and Sam to figure out which ship Jacob is on and rescue him before it’s too late. Includes an author’s note and a map showing where ships from Rotten Row have been discovered in San Francisco. 320 pages; grades 4-7.
Pros: You can always count on Avi for exciting, well-researched historical fiction, and this book really brings the California gold rush to life with lots of adventures and a winning heroine/narrator. The end definitely leaves open the possibility of a sequel.
Cons: Fond as I am of Avi’s The True Adventures of Charlotte Doyle, I was expecting more plot twists and edge-of-your-seat suspense than I found here.