History in highly congenial style--wit sizzles in both text and illustration--marks this entry in the Ready-to-Read series a winner. As the book, subtitled ""The Story of the California Gold Rush,"" opens, San Francisco is still a sleepy little town, rife with rumors of gold that soon gain legs. In 1848, while helping build a sawmill in the hills east of the city, carpenter James Marshall stumbles upon what proves to be a gold nugget. Soon the news filters eastward, luring some to board ships and others to join wagon trains, all of them headed for the goldfields of California. Krensky (see review, above) handles the era of the Forty-Niners from beginning to end; his account bristles with solid facts presented with an eye for the wry. The fun extends to pictures, lavish in number; that miners lived in places like Bedbug or Grizzly Flats makes for good copy, but seeing what they did to dress up their beards for Sundays makes the whole thing laugh-out-loud funny. Beginning readers will cherish this brand of history.