cover image Twist of Gold

Twist of Gold

Michael Morpurgo. Viking Children's Books, $14.99 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-670-84851-5

When, in the Ireland of 1847, ``a sudden blight . . . reduced the countryside to a pungent mass of black rot and left the people starving,'' an English dragoon helps Sean O'Brien, 13, and his 10-year-old sister, Annie, to leave their ravaged homeland. Following an eventful sea voyage from Cork to Boston, the youngsters struggle across a rough, new America to find their father in California. With only the family ``torc''--an ancestral golden medallion given to them by their dying mother--for protection, the children are dealt life lessons along the way in both the goodness and the inhumanity of man. Sentimental in the best sense of the word, this epic journey gathers momentum as the children draw ever nearer their destination. As the pace pours on, the story loses some of the beauty and lyricism of Morpungo's ( King of the Cloud Forests ; Waiting for Anya ) musical dialogue, and conflicts are resolved a little too conveniently; but the novel remains a colorful, engaging, Dickensian read to its happy and affecting conclusion. Ages 10-14. (Mar.)