Saturday, July 13, 2013

Schoolhouse Review: Tunnel of Gold

Gess is a great reader and loves going to the library but as she gets older I find it is getting more and more difficult to find quality fiction books for her to read.  Oh sure there are plenty of books on the shelf but way too many of them have questionable content or promote inappropriate behavior.  Since Gess has special needs she is overly sensitive if there is any fighting or serious conflict within the story.  She will start books and often not finish them because they "bother" her, especially if they have illustrations that demonstrate the emotions.  Because of this I am always excited when I am afforded the chance to review books such as Goldtown Adventures which are labeled as "Wholesome Books for Kids."

For the purpose of my review I received part two in the newly released Goldtown Adventures series Tunnel of Gold by Susan Marlow and Kregel Publications.

This delightful book follows the story of Jem Coulter and his sister Ellie the children of the town sheriff.  Goldtown's Midas mine seems to be all played out and with no more gold to be found Jem worries about what will happen to the town.  Will they find another mine with gold or will Goldtown become a ghost town? 

Jem is a delightful lad and seems to have a decent head on his shoulders, but of course being only 12 he makes his share of mistakes.  His sister Ellie will sometimes give Jem a hard time, as most little sisters do, but you can tell they care about each other all the same.  Their nemesis Will is the son of the gold mine's owner who thinks the miners and ranchers are below him in status.  Jem, Ellie, their cousin Nathan and a new friend Chad bring you along on their crazy journey as they try to save the town and help out pa's ranch while also trying to find some gold of their own.

The Coulter family are Christians and there were times they prayed and mentioned God in the story.  It was just a part of who they were and it was evident that their character and their principles were shaped by their beliefs.  The book also touched on racism as one of Jem's friends Wu Shen finds his family in the middle of the town's crisis.  

Reading Tunnel of Gold sparked an interest in Gess to learn more about the gold rush, which is exactly what you want a good book to do.  The author Susan Marlow says "the best part about writing historical adventure stories is tramping around the actual sites."  She has even panned for gold though she said she isn't very good at it. Her love for history and research certainly comes through in the book.  I loved that it explained enough of the past and the town without the really long drawn out descriptions. We certainly felt that we were part of Goldtown.  There were some nice, small illustrations in the book as well.

Susan Marlow  also offers a FREE study guide to go along with the book which helped Gess not only learn more about history, but become more excited about the story itself.   The study guide is very detailed and has some great hands on activities as well as worksheets, games and much more.

One of the worksheets was a crossword puzzle.  Gess often struggles with puzzles due to her inability to think and reason out the answer but this one was perfect for her.  Did you know gold was mentioned in the Bible 417 times?  Well it is and all the clues in this puzzle are based upon some of those Scriptures. Gess is good at looking up Scripture so that was easy for her to do and she got all of the answers correct without any help!  She did sometimes misspell some of the words when she wrote them in the boxes so I helped her with that part of it.  (I did find one error on the page - there was no clue for 13 Across but the author fixed it as soon as she realized it and even left the clue for us so Gess could finish her puzzle!)

There were also regular worksheets with questions related to the story.  You had vocabulary words for every chapter along with highlights from the chapters and a Do You Remember section to help check your comprehension.  It was also good to see it deal with some of the figures of speech.  Gess really noticed those.  When it used the phrase killing two birds with one stone she asked about that because they weren't killing birds at the time!

The hands on activities were lots of fun.  We tested our hands at making doughnuts like Cook and learned a little of their history, like how they got their holes. This is the first time I have ever made a doughnut so this was fun for me also.

We also got to see how long it would take a miner to make a cup of coffee by making our own miner's stove!  It took 15 minutes to get this just warm to the touch while it took only 4 minutes to boil water on the stove.  We sure are grateful for some of the modern day conveniences!

As you can probably tell we really loved the story and truly appreciated the free study guide that went with it.  To get all that for the cost of just the book is a really good deal.

The Tunnel of Gold is geared towards children ages 8 to 13 and I think that is pretty accurate.  The book was 141 pages long and while Gess did have the skill to read it because of her special needs she tends to read books only half that size so we chose to read this together.  We took turns reading, however I read most of the time.  It made for a very nice read-along session and stirred up great conversations.  It's fun to read a story aloud, especially when it is as enjoyable as this one was. 

You can purchase the Tunnel of Gold for $7.99 from Susan Marlow and Kregel Publications or you can save money by purchasing books 1 & 2 of the Goldtown Adventure Series together for only $13.95.  To learn more about the series, read a sample chapter or watch a trailer about the books you can visit their website.  You can also learn more by reading other reviews from Schoolhouse Review Crew which had the opportunity to review both books in the series.  You can read those reviews by clicking on the banner below.


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Andi Carter said...

Well, wowwie wow wow! Thanks for the detail, delightful review of Tunnel of Gold. And thank you kindly for mentioned the typo "no clue for 13 across." Yikes. I shall certainly remedy that ASAP. :-)

Loved all the pictures! Loved peeking into your life.

Susan Marlow (the blogger account I'm commenting from is the character from my other series for girls. It's way too much work to sign out and in with another account. Just an FYI)

Dawn said...

What a wonderful review! WOW - not only does the book sound amazing but the free study guide? COOL! I will definitely check in to this more because you are right...good quality (Christian) books are hard to come by, especially for the older kids.

Annette said...

thanks for this review. sounds like such an excellent book. I"ll be putting it on my list of books to read. :)

annette @ a net in time

Martianne said...

What an absolutely wonderful book and guide you found and what fun it looks like you had exploring it. I, too, am always looking for wholesome reading. As my kids get older, I will have to keep this in mind.

Karyn Tripp said...

We read the first in this series & really enjoyed it, too. I love the activities you did to go along with the book!

Brittney said...

This looks like a fun book that I would enjoy reading aloud to my kids! I think it's great there's a study guide and hands-on activities to bring it to life!

Michelle G said...

This looks like a great book! I love the additional activities that go with it.

Andi Carter said...

I found out what the problem was with the crossword puzzle. The clue for 13 across was there . . . only, the Publisher file had hidden it behind the other text box! Easy fix. I was not looking forward to trying to guess what I had for that clue.

Here it is, if Gess wants to fill it in:

13. Acts 3:6 - _____ had no silver or gold.

Thanks again for your eagle eye!


Lori said...

Thanks Susan! I appreciate you fixing that right away and especially for coming back to let us know! I edited my post to reflect the change as well so my readers will know that you have corrected the error. It's so nice to have an author respond to feedback so quickly and effectively!


Andi Carter said...

Well, think of me more as a fellow "homeschool mommy" rather than as an author. The author part is more like a hobby and ministry. :-)

As a retired (Nah, do we ever retire?) homeschool mom and grandma, I would so much like to have the activities I use "up and running." :-)

Have a great day!


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