________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 12 . . . . February 6, 2009

cover Gold Rush. (The Terrible Truth).

Ted Staunton. Illustrated by Remie Geoffroi.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2008.
103 pp., pbk., $8.95.
ISBN 978-0-88780-747-3.

Subject Headings:
Gold mines and mining-Canada-History-Juvenile literature.
Canada-Gold discoveries-Juvenile literature.

Grades 8 and up / Ages 13 and up.

Review by J. Lynn Fraser.

*** /4

Ted Staunton has succeeded where many others have failed, he has made Canadian history interesting and exciting.

     Traditionally, as we all know, Canadian history is taught as a series of dates and 'important' legislation with some railway names and exploration routes added for interest and a few wars thrown in for good measure. Usually what is missing in books about Canadian history are the motivations of the people who took such great risks to explore and live in a distant unknown country named Canada.

     The author, using the theme of gold and the greed it inspires, has spun a fast paced tale about why gold inspires people to takes risks and what those risks involved.

     Gold Rush is easy to read, with short chapters, fun illustrations, and a sources section at the back of the book for young readers who want to learn more about gold, exploration in Canada, and Canadian history.

     While telling tales of gold prospectors, Staunton has cleverly added information about history and science, such as in this tale of how prospectors, out in the bush, could tell how cold it was outside and if they could risk a travel into a distant town:

It was so cold, men joked about checking the "Yukon thermometer" before deciding on a trip to town. This nifty device was apparently a row of four jars: one with mercury, one with whiskey, one with kerosene and with patent medicine painkiller. Mercury froze at -40C, whiskey at -48C, kerosene at -51C. The painkiller, containing even more alcohol than the whiskey, supposedly never froze.

There is also information, in the form of anecdotes about prospectors and the towns in which they traded, that reveals much about social relations, economics, and human nature:

You had to know wilderness survival: how to hunt, avoid snow blindness, build boats with branches and animal skin. Henderson once found himself hanging upside-down above a river, impaled through the calf on a broken branch - but he was savvy enough to survive.

     Some of the tales are humourous, others are sad (in particular anecdotes about animals used in the pursuit of prospecting), and more still are cautionary tales about greed that fit well with current economic conditions. The contribution of clever and daring women are also a part, although a small one, in Staunton's story.

     All of this contributes to an engaging tale that will encourage students to see that history is more than events to memorize, people in funny clothing, and parliamentary debates about tax reform.

     Young readers would have appreciated a map of the routes taken by the prospectors during the various gold rushes and one which also indicated the locations of the various town, rivers, mountains, and cities mentioned in the text. Perhaps, as well, a summary of some of the facts and dates mentioned would have been helpful as would have been an index. The author's use of the word 'native,' instead of First Nations, for instance, should be reconsidered. It would have been of interest to hear the perspective of the various First Nations tribes who were affected by the various gold rushes.

     Nevertheless, Staunton author provides a delightful and fun survey of gold and the exploration it inspired over many decades in the past and its relation to today's economic struggles.

Highly Recommended.

J. Lynn Fraser, a Toronto-based freelance writer whose articles appear in national and international magazines and newspapers, has also written two nonfiction books for children.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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