Lasley brings to life a gold rush story from his home state of Alaska in this charming debut picture book.
Lasley bucks expectations for a historical fiction narrative by presenting the story of the prospector Felice “Pedro” Pedroni, an Italian immigrant to Alaska, through the perspective of his trusty gold pan: “Pan for short.” The upbeat narrative somewhat downplays the difficulties of life as a gold prospector in the early 20th century. From braving the harsh elements to always being on the lookout for wild animals, Pan is game for any adventures Pedro brings him on. Above all, Pan takes his work looking for gold very seriously and shares his owner’s disappointment when their day’s work proves fruitless. Though the story is humorous and the protagonist playful, there is some meaty geology and history to be mined within, including information on iron pyrite (aka fool’s gold: “Drat!”) and how to pan for gold. Souva’s illustrations employ geometric shapes and a muted palette, investing Pan with appealing personality via eyebrows, eyes, and mouth. Backmatter expands upon the story for readers curious to know more. While the book is sure to appeal to educators, especially those teaching about the various gold rushes in western American history, the amusing adventures of Pan and Pedro hold broad appeal for read-alouds with many and varied audiences beyond the classroom.
A sweet little nugget of a story. (Picture book. 4-6)