cover image Gold Fever

Gold Fever

Verla Kay, S. D. Schindler. Putnam Publishing Group, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-399-23027-1

First-time author Kay's gloriously terse verse takes a rhymin' romp through the gold fields of 1849 California. ""Dashing westward,/ Many miners./ Townsfolk snicker,/ `Forty-niners.' "" So begins the dynamic tale of a farmer named Jasper who leaves home and hearth to find his fortune. Kay shoehorns a motherlode of historical information into her minimalist chronicle of Jasper's misadventures. As Kay tots up Jasper's provisions (""Packed a shovel,/ Pistol, pick,/ Goldpan, bedroll,/ Walking stick""), describes the often disagreeable conditions on the journey west (""Prairie-dust storm,/ River, rocks./ Desert, sagebrush,/ Holes in socks"") and sketches the disappointments that await (""Grumpy miners,/ Nuggets--small./ Jasper scowling,/ Fireside brawl""), Schindler's (Don't Fidget a Feather) jaunty colored pencil illustrations skillfully move the action forward, adding layers of texture and detail with flashes of humor. A rich vein of Americana, cleverly mined. Ages 4-8. (Feb.)