cover image Gold in the Hills

Gold in the Hills

Laurie Lawlor. Walker & Company, $15.95 (146pp) ISBN 978-0-8027-8371-4

In the summer of 1882, 10-year-old narrator Hattie Proctor, 12-year-old brother Pheme and their widowed father leave Illinois and head for Colorado. While Mr. Proctor combs the gold mines, the siblings are boarded with Cousin Tirzah, a bitter woman whose husband deserted her and their four children. She heaps chores and insults on plucky Hattie and severely withdrawn Pheme, and she balefully predicts that their father will never return. But their self-esteem slowly builds as they gradually befriend a notorious recluse, who-in a Hollywood-style climax-saves the children from being sold as cheap labor to a corrupt entrepreneur. Lawlor (Addie Across the Prairie) fills this compelling adventure with suspenseful drama and period details, including a revealing examination of 19th-century child-labor practices. Yet Hattie's vivid narration often transcends time and locale: ``The thing about loving,'' she realizes, ``is that I never have to stop, even when that person is gone far away.'' An ambitious effort. Ages 8-12. (May)