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Berton, Pierre
Toronto, McClelland & Stewart, 1991. 88pp, paper, $5.99, ISBN 0-7710-1432-5. (Adventures in Canadian History). CIP


Berton, Pierre
Toronto, McClelland & Stewart, 1991. 86pp, paper, $5.99, ISBN 0-7710-1433-3. (Adventures in Canadian History). CIP

Grades 5 to 7/Ages 10 to 12

Reviewed by Jo Anna M. Patton

Volume 20 Number 4
1992 September

When critically reading an historical text I look for two things accuracy and interest. Considering the author of this series author of over thirty titles, three of which have won the Governor General's Award for Nonfiction, including Klondike: The Life and Death of the Last Gold Rush (McClelland & Stewart, 1972)

- I began reading these two texts for interest, assured of their accuracy.

The books, the only two in the series on the gold rush, cover roughly the time from the discovery of gold in the Klondike to the stampede. Bonanza Gold actually concentrates on Canadian Robert Henderson and American George Carmack and the controversy over the rightful discoverer of the Klondike. Berton creates for the reader a realistic, unromantic view of the difficult life of the prospector. The reader is introduced to many who gave up years of their lives searching for gold; in some cases, the search itself became the focus.

Although we get to meet real people in Bonanza Gold, the second book, the reader gets an overall view of the stampede after the gold discovery was announced. The author presents descriptions and illustrations of the hardships endured by these prospective millionaires who sold everything to search for gold. You see the destruction of friendships, of families, of animals and of human lives. In one paragraph the author describes thousands of horses with "'For Sale' signs hung over their backs and blood stream[ing] down their thighs...."

Be aware, though, that some descriptions are very graphic: "one packer ... made $300,000 in transport fees before he blew out his brains...," or the description of John Matthews, an Idaho farmer, who, after lamenting the fate of his wife and babies, "... pulled a pistol from his pocket and put a bullet through his brain...."

Overall, the books read well and are well organized. The chapters are not long, illustrations are sprinkled throughout, and a useful index is included. With the desperate need for readable Canadian history at the middle school level, these titles fill a real void.

Jo Anna M. Patton is a librarian at Miss Edgar's and Miss Cramp's School for Girls in Westmount, Quebec

line indexes


1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995


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