We received 2 books from Kregel Publications in their Goldtown Beginnings series called Jem Strikes Gold & Jem's Frog Fiasco. These are the first 2 books in the series. As usual, we were excited, because we love new books (especially adventure books!).
First off, these books are paperback (but good quality) and approximately 80 pages long. These are rated for 6-8 year old's, but my 2, 5, & 8 all loved them! They are categorized as historical juvenile fiction. I actually loved these too :) Guess I'm still a kid at heart, lol.
We read these as a read-a-loud for all the kids! They really liked them a lot, especially the pages with illustrations. I also used them as reading practice for my 8 year old. It has a good mix of easy & hard words so it helps stretch his reading ability but gives him encouragement because he can read 60-80% of the words with no help.
The stories themselves are very well written. They follow a young boy, Jem and his little sister, Ellie as they live in a goldtown in the 1800's. I had read a lot of stories about this era but never from the perspective of the kids. We all thought this was very neat!
In the first book, Jem Strikes Gold, we're going along with Jem as he struggles with being afraid of a bully, dealing with frustration at his little sister and the joy of the possibility of getting a pet dog! (The really funny part is that we just got a new puppy as we were reading these books!). Spoiler Alert: I thought it was super cute how the dog ends of rescuing the kids and stealing the whole family's heart!
In the second book, Jem's Frog Fiasco, Jem is trying desperately to figure out a way to feed his dog more than the meager table scraps. When he finds an unexpected way by selling bullfrogs to a local café we embark on a new adventure! Frogs are slippery and hard to catch and a little sister and dog aren't that much help! We can't help but sympathize with Jem's frustration.
One reason I like these books so much is the realism. They don't gloss over the hardships that were present. Many goldminers went hungry and the pets certainly didn't get an overabundance of food! After all, if you have to choose between feeding your children or dog, which would you choose? My son who is 8 didn't really understand the mom and dad's dilemma here and said he would share his food with the dog ;)
I also really love the Biblical message in these books! The kids are constantly challenged to deal with each other and the trying circumstances in a God-honoring way. They present it in a very down-to-earth manner and not a goody, goody, unrealistic child!
I am very pleased with these books and plan to add the rest of the series to our bookshelves! Don't forget to check out the other reviews at the link below!