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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Bo at Ballard Creek, written by Kirkpatrick Hill and illustrated by LeUyen Pham. Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan. Raincoast Books, 2013. $18.50 ages 8 and up

"The days grew warmer and warmer. Pools and puddles were everywhere as the winter snow disappeared. When Bo went to visit Oscar, all the snow on the roof of Oscar's cabin was dripping into the soft tired snow around the house. The snow was grainy and didn't glitter in the sun. Soon it would be all melted away. Oscar's mother was Clara, and she was always glad to see Bo. "Onee, onee," she cried happily - come in."

It's the 1920s in Alaska. Bo lives with her papas, in an old gold rush town that is slowly losing its inhabitants. The mine has little gold left to give. As a baby, Bo was given to her papa Arvid, just as her young and adventurous mother left on a boat going downriver. Some mothers don't stick around to care for their young. What a stroke of  luck for Bo!

Arvid and Jack took to caring for Bo in the best way possible, and Bo, at 5, has grown to be a  much-loved and very welcome community member. She loves her life with her papas, her many friends, and the events that take place around her. We are privy to these goings-on in Bo's life for the best part of a year. We watch as the many small vignettes mold themselves into a well-told and engaging story for readers and listeners in third through sixth grades.

There are lots of characters to get to know, and each one has a special role to play in Bo's daily life.
There are miners, Eskimos, visitors and even another orphan. They rush to welcome an airplane and the CAT that brings groceries; they celebrate July 4 and an important birthday; and they worry together when a grizzly comes to close and when Bo becomes very ill with pneumonia. Through it all the community supports all members and the book gives readers a homey look at life in the early 1900s.

The illustrations add interest and allow us a personal look at the many events shared. Bo is an exuberant child with a big heart, who works her way into the families and hearts of all who live at Ballard Creek. She has much to learn and does it with great gusto. She speaks two languages and learns to communicate in an entirely different way when Grafton doesn't appear to understand either. She is always positive, inquisitive. I most certainly want to know more about her, her papas and their  life in a new mining town when they must leave Ballard Creek to make a living elsewhere.

Read it aloud with your family, or to your class. It will be time well spent!

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