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.
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.