A 12-year-old Victorian girl turns adventurer during the Colorado silver boom in this engrossing tale set in 1885. Valentine has been left in the care of her aunt and uncle, while her father is seeking his fortune in Aspen, Colorado. When her cousin Harold shreds her favorite doll (sent to her by her father), Valentine’s anger turns to amazement as she discovers five gold pieces hidden within the doll’s stuffing. With her newfound wealth she hatches a plan to seek her father and, with no other option, decides to travel as a boy. Throughout the long and adventure-filled journey, Valentine meets guttersnipes (train-station orphans), avoids Pinkertons (detectives), and walks 70 miles over Independence Pass. But when she does finally reach Aspen, she is faced with yet another obstacle. Finding a man in a town of thousands of miners and drifters is pretty much impossible. But Valentine secures a job in a café, and with her unsinkable spirit makes the right friends and even winds up a local hero; an act of bravery that eventually reunites her with her father. Valentine’s experience enlightens her as to the different ways boys are received in the world and allows her the benefit of both perspectives. When it is at last safe to return to her skirts and petticoats she finds herself saying, “ I’m a girl, but I’m no sissy . . . I’ll keep my doll, but I’ll keep my boots and my Levi trousers too.” Ayres’s (Family Tree, 1996) well-researched story is fun to read, full of spunk, and should teach a gentle lesson or two as well. (author’s note) (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-385-32763-3

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2000


Taking a page from Avi’s The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (1990), Kehret (I’m Not Who You Think I Am, p. 223, etc.) pens a similar story of a girl who goes to sea. Determined not to be separated from her seriously ill mother, Emma, 12, embarks on a plan that results in the adventure of a lifetime. Sent to live with Aunt Martha and her arrogant son, Odolf, Emma carefully plots her escape. Disguising herself in her cousin’s used clothes, she sneaks out while the household slumbers and stows away on what she believes to be a ship carrying her parents from England to the warmer climate of France. Instead, the ship is the evil, ill-fated Black Lightning, under the command of the notorious Captain Beacon. Emma finds herself sharing quarters with a crew of filthy, surly, dangerous men. When a fierce storm swamps the ship, Emma desperately seizes her chance to escape, drifting for several days and nights aboard a hatch cover and finally carried to land somewhere on the coast of Africa. Hungry, thirsty, and alone, Emma faces the daunting prospect of slow starvation, but survives due to a relationship she builds with a band of chimpanzees. This page-turning adventure story shows evidence of solid research and experienced plotting—the pacing is breathless. Kehret paints a starkly realistic portrait, complete with sounds and smells of the difficult and unpleasant life aboard ship. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-03416-2

Page Count: 138

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1999


PLB 0-531-33140-7 Ketcham’s first book is based on an allegedly true story of a childhood incident in the life of Johann Sebastian Bach. It starts with a couple of pages regaling the Bach home and all the Johanns in the family, who made their fame through music. After his father’s death, Johann Sebastian goes to live with his brother, Johann Christoph, where he boasts that he is the best organist in the world. Johann Christoph contradicts him: “Old Adam Reincken is the best.” So Johann Sebastian sets out to hear the master himself. In fact, he is humbled to tears, but there is hope that he will be the world’s best organist one day. Johann Sebastian emerges as little more than a brat, Reincken as more of a suggestion than a character. Bush’s illustrations are most transporting when offering details of the landscape, but his protagonist is too impish to give the story much authority. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-531-30140-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orchard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1999

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