Friday, July 17, 2009
It’s 1851, and Amelia her mother Sophie, and her mother’s companion Estelle have just made the journey from Boston to San Francisco. The journey was most difficult for Estelle, who suffered from seasickness the entire time. Amelia, however, had befriended some of the sailors and learned a thing or two about tying knots.
As their ship, the Unicorn, makes its way into the harbor, Amelia’s sailor friend Jim asks her to make herself useful. She helps Jim by tying up the bundles of newspapers he has with him. Amelia is surprised to find that the newspapers are from the east and are 3 months old. She soon learns that folks in California are hungry for news back east and will pay a pretty penny for it.
Once Amelia and her family are on dry land, Amelia’s mother reveals that the journey over was much more expensive than she had planned for. When Amelia goes to find a cart to help them haul their belongings, she has a brainstorm. She unpacks her dress shoes that are wrapped in a newspaper. A newspaper that is indeed newer than the ones that she bundled up and the newsboys were currently selling. When Amelia takes up on a street corner to sell her lone paper, she soon finds out that one kid, especially a girl, can’t sell in Julius’ turf. She is quickly and physically taken out of the game.
Amelia finds it difficult to be one of only a handful of women around. Yes it’s nice that all of the women gravitate toward each other and help each other out, but how is Amelia to help her family if all of the jobs from newsboy to printer’s devil are for boys?
Maybe Amelia would be better off as a boy.
Liza Ketchum has written a rip-roaring piece of historical fiction that will captivate all readers. Amelia’s intrepid nature and the vast chaos of San Francisco in the 1850s are fascinating. Sophie and Estelle are obviously partners, though Ketchum’s treatment of the relationship is simply matter of fact, and the book never strays into lesson territory. It is more of a scandal that Sophie never married. The action is non-stop, and readers will delight in Amelia’s adventures, whether they be up in the sky, down in the streets, or along the journey.
Hands down my favorite read so far this year.