Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

EconKids Home New Picture Books in 2011 (First Word A-I) Gold! Gold from the American River / by Don Brown

Gold! Gold from the American River / by Don Brown


Title: Gold! Gold from the American River
Author:  Don Brown
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
ISBN: 978-1-59643-223-9
Year: 2011

Concepts: natural resources, economic history, entrepreneurs, migration

Review: After James Marshall discovered gold in the runoff ditch of John Sutter’s sawmill on the American River early in 1848, the exciting news spread quickly. Within the next six years, some three hundred thousand people had migrated to California in hopes of striking it rich.  Some of those migrants did indeed get lucky and make a fortune from the gold they found, but most miners worked under extremely difficult conditions only to come up empty-handed.

Native Americans experienced the most hardship as they suffered from new illnesses carried by the miners, expulsion from their land, and outright killings.  International migrants, especially those from China, also faced hostility and discrimination that included having to pay a monthly foreign miners tax.  In direct contrast, enterprising women and men who sold goods and services to the miners did quite well financially. Some of these entrepreneurs created businesses that have continued to this day, including Levi Strauss’s clothing company and Philip Armour’s meatpacking firm.

With its interesting content and lively pace, this historical narrative provides young learners with a helpful overview of some of the key events in America’s gold rush.  The book, which is well-researched and does a good job in keeping the reader’s attention, can provide a useful resource for talking with children about economic concepts that include natural resources, discrimination, and entrepreneurship.

Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

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