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My children love to read before bed each night!
Even my 3 year old loves to have a book read to him before he settles in for the night. So when our review copies of the first two books from the Goldtown Beginnings series by Kregel Publications arrived, I knew they would be our new bedtime books! The first two books are titled Jem Strikes Gold and Jem’s Frog Fiasco, both perfect for beginning readers aged 6-9.
When I pulled the books out of the shipping envelope I could immediately see that there were great quality soft cover books. I love the covers! They are colourful and fun and really capture your attention. A quick flip through the pages revealed a few black and white pictures sprinkled throughout. Just enough to spark your imagination while reading, without distracting from the story.
Each book is 80 pages long, with chapters being only a few double sided pages each. I think this makes it less intimidating for young beginning readers. My 9 year old daughter was able to read them quite easily, only getting hung up on just a handful of words. Because we read these at bedtime though, we took turns reading a few pages each. At the beginning of each book there is a list of new words and their definitions. Because the books are set in 1859 Goldtown, California, there are likely a few mining and “olden day” words that your child wouldn’t recognize otherwise. So this list is a nice helper for expanding vocabulary and helping the child to better understand what they are reading. At the end of each book are a few pages that give a bit of history about the time period for a deeper understanding.
Jem Strikes Gold
Jem Strikes Gold is the first book in this new series and introduces us to Jem, his sister Ellie and their parents. They live in a canvas tent in Goldtown, California in 1859. The children pan gold on their own claims and help their mother by delivering pies to the other miners and some laundry too. Jem is a good brother but often gets frustrated with his little sister, which I’m sure many children with younger siblings can relate to! We are also introduced to a rich boy named Will who likes to bully Jem at any chance he gets. I don’t want to give too many details and spoil the story for you, but I will say that Jem and Ellie make a new furry friend who helps Jem to overcome his bully problems.
Jem’s Frog Fiasco
Jem’s Frog Fiasco is the second book in the series and continues where the first book left off. Jem sets out to find a job so that he can buy meat scraps to feed his new puppy, Nugget. He finds one with the cafe owner, Mr.Sims. Jem is to find frogs so that Mr. Sims can serve frog legs in his cafe, and he will pay 5 cents per frog! Jem’s sister Ellie wants to help too, of course, but Jem quickly becomes frustrated by all of the noise and commotion that Ellie and Nugget cause while he’s trying to catch the frogs. After the two children have an argument, Ellie runs off in a huff and soon becomes lost. After realizing that Ellie is missing, Jem feels that he is to blame because he yelled at her and starts to worry that they won’t find her. Once again, I don’t want to give away the whole story, but be assured that there is a happy ending.
I personally loved both of these books! The stories were short but entertaining and were very believable. I enjoyed that each book subtly presented a moral-of-the-story which encouraged good traits and values. The gold rush is an exciting time period to read about and the author did a great job creating stories that are both fun and education for children. My daughter enjoyed both book as well, particularly that they talked about gold panning, and of course, that there was a cute puppy in them! She found them to be at just the right reading level (she is in 4th grade), and liked that they were about the kids perspective of that time.
Kregel Publications provides free educational language arts activities to accompany each book. You can find those here: http://goldtownadventures.com. There are colouring pages, a reading schedule, vocabulary and reading comprehension worksheets, recipes and more.
There are also activity guides and lapbook packages that are available for purchase if you’d like to go into more depth and really create a unit study from these books. It could make a great read-aloud and study for your homeschool.
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