Reviews for Bo at Ballard Creek

Booklist Reviews 2013 April #2
When Bo was just a newborn, two strong, tenderhearted gold miners saved her from life in an orphanage and brought her to Ballard Creek, a gold-mining camp and Eskimo village along the Koyukuk River in Alaska. This novel, set in the late 1920s after the big Alaskan gold rushes, is more a slice of life than a plot-driven narrative, as five-year-old Bo visits her kind neighbors--from Eskimo Big Annie to Milo, who runs the Roadhouse--and pitches in with the never-ending workload, including the tedious task of sluicing pay dirt for gold. Her papas--Jack, the camp cook, and Arvid, a blacksmith--are supportive of tomboy Bo, whose adventures range from riding in a dog sled to being chased by a bear to watching a biplane land. It's the simple things that thrill, and Hill, born and raised in a gold-mining Alaskan community herself, infuses her text with engaging small details, while Pham's exuberant illustrations add playfulness to the story. Although some readers may wish for a more continuous story, others, particularly fans of the classic Little House books, will soak in the atmospheric look at a particular time and place. A great choice for classroom units on the gold rush. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Fall
The disarmingly forthright tone is set right at the start of this book when we meet Bo, a little girl who lives with her papas (yes, that's plural) in a small gold-rush town in 1920s Alaska. Like Little House in the Big Woods but with a considerably larger cast (miners, Eskimos, old-timers, good-time girls), small events and crises keep the story involving.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2013 #3
The disarmingly forthright tone is set right at the start of this chapter book when we meet Bo, a little girl who lives with her papas (yes, that's plural) in a small, almost-worked-out gold-rush town in 1920s Alaska. Papa Jack and Papa Arvid explain to Bo that her mother was Mean Millie, a "good-time girl" who unceremoniously dropped baby Bo into Arvid's arms and left town on the riverboat. "Sometimes mamas don't stick around, you know. Just walk off." The explanation satisfies Bo and suits the cheerful and uncomplicated nature of the episodic story, which follows Bo through the course of a year. Like Little House in the Big Woods but with a considerably larger cast (miners, Eskimos, old-timers, good-time girls), the small events (a birthday party, a visiting plane) and crises (a grizzly, pneumonia) keep the story involving even while it lacks much of a through-line beyond the seasons. The frequent use of simple pen-and-ink drawings further the Wilder resemblance, but Pham's are more sophisticated, befitting the era and situations. Hill's book is a little more rambunctious, but in the end it shares something else with Laura: with the gold now gone, Bo and her papas (and a new adopted little brother) head out for better prospects -- and perhaps another book? roger sutton

Kirkus Reviews 2013 April #2
A warm tale set in an Alaskan gold-mining town in 1929-30. Bo, a 5-year-old girl, was adopted as a newborn by two gruff but tenderhearted blacksmiths who've toiled in the mining camps of the Yukon for years. These unlikely fathers smoke a bit and swear a bit, but they love Bo with all their hearts. Theirs is an extraordinarily generous, solicitous, close-knit community, comprised of indigenous neighbors and workers from around the world. Events unfold at a leisurely pace in this narrative that's enriched by authentic details that make the time and place come alive. Readers discover that life in a mining town means surviving brutal winters, handling day-to-day chores in all seasons while still having fun, doing backbreaking labor, and finally, actually extracting the gold from the dirt. (Readers will learn more than they probably ever needed to know about how this is accomplished.) Life in a remote backwater also entails high excitement, such as the townspeople's first-ever sighting of an airplane and bulldozer. Warmth and love pervade this novel, an Alaskan version of the Little House books, and characters are well-drawn. Some realistically sad and frightening events occur, but the novel ends on a happy, though wistful, note. Final art was not seen, though samples are charming and reinforce the Little House feel. Some may find this overly sweet, but Bo is an endearing Pollyanna in a parka. (Historical fiction. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Reviews 2013 October

Gr 4-7--In 1924, Arvid and Jack, two blacksmiths who work in mining communities in the Alaska territory, adopt an abandoned baby girl. They name her Bo, and, when readers meet her, they will be immediately grabbed by her infectious personality. One moment she helps Jack, who becomes a camp cook, make doughnuts, and the next minute she runs in a three-legged race. When a speechless boy shows up in the camp, five-year-old Bo's compassion helps him heal. Each experience Bo has, including her frightening encounter with a bear, plays out naturally. Pham's joyful illustrations match the overall exuberant mood of the story. Sweeping generalizations like "Eskimos are just foolish over babies" and "All the Eskimos made up songs-funny songs or sad or happy," coupled with some strong language, are unfortunate. Readers can easily picture the Alaskan mining town where Bo and her family live, though they might wish for a map to give them a sense of the vast land and the distance between the towns mentioned and documentation about the Native group(s) living in the territory during the early part of the 20th century. The endearing qualities of Bo, her fathers, and the other characters are what make this story.--Hilary Writt, Sullivan University, Lexington, KY

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