Monday, January 23, 2012

Book Review: Dame Shirley and the Gold Rush

Although Dame Shirley and the Gold Rush has suggested age range of grades 3-6, I think it is suited towards slightly younger ages as well. The book is slim, only 4 chapters, making it a good choice for older struggling readers or reading aloud to younger readers with shorter attention spans. It gives a brief glimpse of life in the gold camps from the point of view of Dame Shirley, the wife of a doctor, as recollected through letters to her sister in the east. It is said those letters are the first truly honest written records of the gold camps. I used this book with 1st and 4th graders. We read it aloud over the course of a week. The language was simple, easily understood by both. There are a few black and white pictures to help the younger crowd. What this book provided that other resources did not interestingly was an introduction to the problem of racial tensions between the Hispanic and white miners during the time. Very little was mentioned about this in other books we read, but it features prominently in the camp described by Dame Shirley, causing her much distress. This gives a nice leap to talk about the history of these tensions throughout California history and into modern times. For such a short book, this is a very nice addition to our California study with grammar age students.

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