CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 1 . . . . September 3, 2004
The final installment of Emily's story takes place at the beginning of the Klondike Gold Rush. The year is 1897. One gold strike in the Yukon has ignited gold fever in tens upon tens of thousands. As they race up the Pacific Coast, they stop in Victoria, British Columbia to buy the "outfits" they need to pass through to the Klondike goldfields.
The city is full of strange new people, and commerce suddenly explodes. The demand for goods increases, as do prices. Dogs needed for pulling sleighs laden with supplies are also in short supply. Family pets are being sold or stolen. Emily nurses an abandoned dog that she names Sam and finds that she must keep close watch or risk losing him.
The Gold Rush changes the lives of many residents of Victoria, including Emily's family. Her father quits his job at the bank to buy a store from a man who has decided to go north. Alice, Emily's friend, is in a state because her father and brother are joining the goldseekers. Sam vanishes, and Emily is sure that a prospector has taken him.
Threads from the previous books in this series run through this story as well, such as the racism of Alice's brother, Tom, toward Mei Yuk, who stopped going to school because of his bullying and threats. Emily's friend George makes an appearance, and Emily continues to squabble with her sisters. Artist Emily Carr, who gave Emily drawing lessons earlier, is only mentioned, which begs the question as to why she is depicted in the cover art teaching Emily and her friends.
Julie Lawson has created Emily as a fairly believable character to witness important events and changing times in British Columbia's history. Emily comes from a stereotypical White Anglo- Saxon Protestant family, but Lawson gives Emily sympathetic qualities and makes her family open-minded so that discussion about the events and attitudes of the time can take place.
As with the other books in the "Our Canadian Girl" series, Summer of Gold will provide interesting, informative reading for pre-adolescent girls. The distance of time and the great physical distances of Canada make it difficult to learn about much of our history. The Klondike Gold Rush was over almost before it started, but it caused 100,000 people to uproot their lives. It changed the political map of the West Coast. Fascinating stories of endurance, survival and adaptation abound.
This series offers excellent insight into how ordinary people acted within events or were shaped by them. Parents who want to educate their children and teachers who are looking for accurate historical fiction to accompany a social studies unit will find much that will assist them in these books.
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.