When I showed my five-year-old the pictures of Jem Strikes Gold and Jem’s Frog Fiasco by Kregel Publications, he was unsure if he wanted to read and review them. I was surprised that he was not more excited but he explained that he was not sure about them because of the dog on the front. We discussed it and he agreed to give them a try. He does not know how to read yet, but we agreed to review them by having me read them aloud to him.
Even though he was a little worried about the dog on the cover (he is scared of dogs), he waited eagerly for the books to arrive in the mail. When the box arrived, he opened it to find two adorable paperback books with beautifully colored covers. The print on the pages was a little larger than normal, making it great for young readers.
When the books came in he wanted me to start reading Jem Strikes Gold right away. We curled up in the recliner to read a chapter or two that evening, and ended up reading half of the book. He kept wanting me to read more and my eleven-year-old daughter was working in the same room and ended up listening with us as well (it might have helped that she shares a nickname with one of the main characters).
Jem Strikes Gold tells the story of Jem and his little sister Ellie and their lives in a California gold town. They live in canvas tent with their parents. Their mom does laundry and bakes pies for miners and dad pans for gold. They help out with these tasks but also have time to play and get into lots of adventures. They learn how to deal with a bully, how to obey their parents, and how to be kind to one another and they even add a pet dog to their family. By the way, my son decided that since it was in the book and not in real life, this dog was okay.
Since we had such a positive experience with book one, I decided to pack Jem’s Frog Fiasco and bring it along with us on a short family camping trip that we were doing. We already had several longer novels that we were listening to on the road but I wanted a good book to read at the camping site. I thought that my older children might find it a little childish but knew that my five-year-old would enjoy it. However, all of the children enjoyed sitting around and listening to the story in the evenings. My daughter even helped me read a few chapters one night. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend buying the books for older children, the story is fun for the whole family. (I did notice that Kregel Publications has a series featuring this same family designed for children in the 9-13 range.)
Jem’s Frog Fiasco is the second book in the series and continues the story of Jem and his sister Ellie. This book shares even more of their adventures with their dog, catching bullfrogs, a missing sister and lessons they learn about being kind to one another. It felt so very real to me because the children reminded me of my own. They love each other but still get into arguments and fuss with each other. The story has some serious moments and important lessons, but it is also filled with lots of laughter and fun.
While we used the books as fun read alouds, they also have some great printable educational activities to go along with the books. It includes comprehension questions, recipes, vocabulary, graphing, drawing, and more. These would make a great unit study. I am saving them to use in a couple of years when my son can read the books independently.
I highly recommend the Goldtown Beginnings Series for children ages 3-7. They make great read alouds and would also be good first chapter books for independent readers. The stories are fun and engaging while also teaching important morale lessons. My son has already requested books 3 and 4 in the series as soon as they are released next spring! Make sure to check out these books and all of their other offerings at Kregel Publications and then click on the graphic below to check out all of the other reviews.
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