________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 20 . . . . June 10, 2005


A Trail of Broken Dreams: The Gold Rush Diary of Harriet Palmer. (Dear Canada).

Barbara Haworth-Attard.
Markham, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2004.
168 pp., cloth, $14.99.
ISBN 0-439-97405-4.

Subject Headings:
Overland journeys to the Pacific-Juvenile fiction.
Cariboo (B.C.: Regional district)-Gold discoveries-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4-9 / Ages 9-14.

Review by Mary Thomas.

**** /4


September 6, 1862.
Another mishap, though no lives were lost in this one. I was writing as I heard a tremendous roar of water over rock! The men poling the raft shouted to wake those who were sleeping. Everyone rushed to the oars to make our way to shore, but then over the water's thunder I heard Talbot shout, "Man overboard!"

I whipped around and saw Joe plunging into the water. At first I thought it was he fallen over, but soon realized it was Henry! I saw Joe's head go down, up, then down again, and finally he surfaced with Henry in his grasp. They bobbed towards the rapids, but no one could help as everyone strained at the oars to bring the raft ashore. Without thinking I grabbed a knife and slashed the rope holding the rail together, wrestled the pole free and held it out to Joe. Just then Talbot and Mr. Dyer came up and grabbed the pole also and we were able to pull Joe in. He hoisted Henry onto the raft.

Once Henry had coughed up what looked like a bucket of river water, he began to feel better.

Gold-bug fever hit hard following the first discoveries of the precious metal in the Cariboo. Men from all across North America streamed to the goldfields, thinking they'd get rich just picking up nuggets from the stream beds like blueberries off a bush. Some did find gold, though usually with more effort than that, and some made their fortunes by serving the prospectors, but many came away poorer than they went, or died in the process.

     Harriet Palmer's father was one who was badly bitten. He sold his mill near London in Canada West, and he and his wife and three children headed west to Winnipeg, or Fort Garry as it then was. Here the family stayed while he went on. Harriet's diary begins the day her mother dies of fever following the birth---and death---of her fourth child. Harriet decides that the only way to keep her brother and sister from being adopted by the storekeeper in Fort Garry and taken back east with them when they go is to go west herself and find her father.

     Disguised as a boy---Harry---she joins a group of Overlanders and treks with them across the prairies and up into the mountains. She describes the dangers and difficulties, the lack of food, the quarrels, the deaths from sickness and accident, the fear of attacks by wolves and natives, all in vivid detail from a young person's perspective. Of course, the journey takes much longer than anyone thought it would, and Harry's disguise breaks down long before they get there. She's allowed to continue with the party on the very reasonable grounds that she is much safer going with them than being sent back, and, once in Cariboo, she begins the daunting task of locating her father among all the thousands of miners in the district.

     Harriet is a determined and quick-witted girl, stubborn to a fault (as she, herself, recognizes), hard-working, and loyal. She does what needs to be done, whether it is getting a job as breakfast cook and mule-dung shoveler at a tavern, or cutting free a pole from the railing of the raft in order to rescue a pair of men fallen overboard, as in the excerpt quoted above. She deserves the success she achieves and the farm in the Okanagan where her reunited family finally settles. Haworth-Attard has written an exciting story about a believable heroine in a very interesting historical setting. This is a book well worth reading and enjoying. Do the former, and I guarantee the latter.

Highly Recommended.

Mary Thomas works in two elementary school libraries in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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