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Bo at Ballard Creek

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It's the 1920s, and Bo was headed for an Alaska orphanage when she won the hearts of two tough gold miners who set out to raise her, enthusiastically helped by all the kind people of the nearby Eskimo village. Bo learns Eskimo along with English, helps in the cookshack, learns to polka, and rides along with Big Annie and her dog team. There's always some kind of excitement: It's the 1920s, and Bo was headed for an Alaska orphanage when she won the hearts of two tough gold miners who set out to raise her, enthusiastically helped by all the kind people of the nearby Eskimo village. Bo learns Eskimo along with English, helps in the cookshack, learns to polka, and rides along with Big Annie and her dog team. There's always some kind of excitement: Bo sees her first airplane, has a run-in with a bear, and meets a mysterious lost little boy. Here is an unforgettable story of a little girl growing up in the exhilarating time after the big Alaska gold rushes.


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It's the 1920s, and Bo was headed for an Alaska orphanage when she won the hearts of two tough gold miners who set out to raise her, enthusiastically helped by all the kind people of the nearby Eskimo village. Bo learns Eskimo along with English, helps in the cookshack, learns to polka, and rides along with Big Annie and her dog team. There's always some kind of excitement: It's the 1920s, and Bo was headed for an Alaska orphanage when she won the hearts of two tough gold miners who set out to raise her, enthusiastically helped by all the kind people of the nearby Eskimo village. Bo learns Eskimo along with English, helps in the cookshack, learns to polka, and rides along with Big Annie and her dog team. There's always some kind of excitement: Bo sees her first airplane, has a run-in with a bear, and meets a mysterious lost little boy. Here is an unforgettable story of a little girl growing up in the exhilarating time after the big Alaska gold rushes.

30 review for Bo at Ballard Creek

  1. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    This little book is just about perfect. It is simple, straight forward and easy to read. Others have compared it to Little House on the Prairie and I can understand that comparison. For many, Little House feels like home. For me, this novel, set in my childhood home of Alaska, feels like home. It is definitely a book for young readers - probably 3rd to 5th grade, as the action is not very fast paced. But that is okay - not very book has to be action packed. It is quiet and sweet and gives kids This little book is just about perfect. It is simple, straight forward and easy to read. Others have compared it to Little House on the Prairie and I can understand that comparison. For many, Little House feels like home. For me, this novel, set in my childhood home of Alaska, feels like home. It is definitely a book for young readers - probably 3rd to 5th grade, as the action is not very fast paced. But that is okay - not very book has to be action packed. It is quiet and sweet and gives kids an idea what it might have been like to live in a mining camp in Alaska around 1930. The main character is only 5, but that gives her the chance to interact with the other characters in a pure and genuine manner.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Melody

    Yup, as Wendy promised, this was a delightful book written FOR kids instead of AT them. Hill's authorial eye has the ability to focus on the detail in the scene that is most interesting to a kid, and pull it to the forefront, look at it from several angles, and then move on. I love the setting, I love the time period, but most of all, I love the characters. Some of the background characters sort of blend together, but for the most part each quirky individual shines in their own particular way. Yup, as Wendy promised, this was a delightful book written FOR kids instead of AT them. Hill's authorial eye has the ability to focus on the detail in the scene that is most interesting to a kid, and pull it to the forefront, look at it from several angles, and then move on. I love the setting, I love the time period, but most of all, I love the characters. Some of the background characters sort of blend together, but for the most part each quirky individual shines in their own particular way. Highly recommended.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    I've never been to Alaska, but this delightful chapter book evoked such a strong sense of place and introduced such interesting characters that I felt as though I'd been there. When I reached the last page, I felt sad to leave the world of 1920s Ballard Creek after the gold rush had died down. The book tells the story of five-year-old Bo, left behind and intended to be dropped off at an orphanage by her mother, one of the good time girls. But two burly mine workers with hearts of gold, Jack and I've never been to Alaska, but this delightful chapter book evoked such a strong sense of place and introduced such interesting characters that I felt as though I'd been there. When I reached the last page, I felt sad to leave the world of 1920s Ballard Creek after the gold rush had died down. The book tells the story of five-year-old Bo, left behind and intended to be dropped off at an orphanage by her mother, one of the good time girls. But two burly mine workers with hearts of gold, Jack and Arvid, simply can't bear to leave her there. Instead, the two become her fathers, and along with the rest of the town, including men and women from the nearby village and the boys who work in the mine, they form a family. Bo is delightfully precocious and outspoken, and she pulls her own weight as well. Readers will be just as charmed by her personality as everyone else around her is. Even in the secluded area where Bo lives, there is always something going on, and the author describes the arrival of the mail bags, Fourth of July celebrations, an encounter with a grizzly, the flight of a plane, and much good food and fellowship. Even the descriptions of how the villagers keep reading the same magazines and coping with extremely cold weather make readers respect these characters even more. The illustrations capture the personalities of Bo and her benefactors perfectly. This title is meant to be shared with a cherished someone.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Adele

    This is a very odd little book. It is clearly directed at children, probably in the 8-10 range. The cheerful tone, simple language, anecdotal style, illustrations, and young protagonist all support this. However, reading it as an adult, well . . . this is an accurate summary of what happens in the initial chapters with only the wording changed: A prostitute gets pregnant. She has the baby, states explicitly that she is not going to allow her life to be ruined by a child, and abandons the baby This is a very odd little book. It is clearly directed at children, probably in the 8-10 range. The cheerful tone, simple language, anecdotal style, illustrations, and young protagonist all support this. However, reading it as an adult, well . . . this is an accurate summary of what happens in the initial chapters with only the wording changed: A prostitute gets pregnant. She has the baby, states explicitly that she is not going to allow her life to be ruined by a child, and abandons the baby through the mechanism of handing the infant to a miner she knows will pass by an orphanage on the way to his new mining camp. She then immediately gets on a boat headed the opposite direction and is never heard from again. The miner, Arvid, a Swede who happens to do side work as a seamstress making clothes, and his "partner", Jack, an African American man who is a cook and appears to have OCD, decide instead to adopt the baby. "That's your baby?" Arvid is asked upon arrival at Ballard Creek. "It's our baby" he states emphatically. Arvid and Jack then proceed to embody the "It takes a village" philosophy raising Bo with gentleness and love and the help of a couple ex-prostitutes, a marshal who's best quality seems to be the ability to turn a blind eye to all the moonshine being made, and the entire population of the small Eskimo [sic] village near the mining camp. I very much enjoyed the strangeness.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Phoebe

    I had to slow myself down to read this book. As a young reader, I skipped the Little House series due to (assumed, by me) lack of diversity and antiquated thinking about "settling" the American countryside (i.e. shoving off the original settlers.) So I was surprised to discover myself reading about Bo, an adopted girl, and her homesteading/mining community in Alaska. It's like Little House snuck around and got me anyway! This story meanders through the seasons and the author treats young readers I had to slow myself down to read this book. As a young reader, I skipped the Little House series due to (assumed, by me) lack of diversity and antiquated thinking about "settling" the American countryside (i.e. shoving off the original settlers.) So I was surprised to discover myself reading about Bo, an adopted girl, and her homesteading/mining community in Alaska. It's like Little House snuck around and got me anyway! This story meanders through the seasons and the author treats young readers with great respect as she covers life, death, loneliness, race, community, belonging, and beauty in the 1920s. The one thing that halts me about this novel is the unexplained use of "Eskimo." The author completely circumvents the controversy around that term (last I checked, we were using Inuit–Yupik). This is especially strange since ethnic and racial diversity is explored throughout the book. The above aside, straight-forward style and gentle humor make Bo at Ballard Creek the perfect read-aloud.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Honeycutt

    Adorable to the zillionth degree. A cozy, feel-good read that's sweet (but never cutesy), and focused on an unorthodox family and a close, caring community. (Also, lots of stuff about gold mining in 1920s Alaska, but very few kids are going to pick up this book for that reason.) LeUyen Pham's expressive illustrations add additional charm to the story (Bo's grumpy face after having her hair curled is especially priceless), but to me, what stands out about this book is its honest portrayal of a Adorable to the zillionth degree. A cozy, feel-good read that's sweet (but never cutesy), and focused on an unorthodox family and a close, caring community. (Also, lots of stuff about gold mining in 1920s Alaska, but very few kids are going to pick up this book for that reason.) LeUyen Pham's expressive illustrations add additional charm to the story (Bo's grumpy face after having her hair curled is especially priceless), but to me, what stands out about this book is its honest portrayal of a child's emotions: Bo's feelings of sadness, fear, exuberance, and love are realistically rough-edged. Highly recommended for kids who like slice-of-life historical fiction, as well as for readers of any age who like diverse characters, authentic details, and endearingly simple storytelling.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Heidi

    Some books are like coming home, and for me reading Bo at Ballard Creek was like being wrapped in a warm, cozy blanket by a parent as I snuggled up for the evening. Its quite unusual for a book Ive never read before to give me that feeling, but when something manages to be so utterly in the vein of my childhood love of Little House, while very obviously doing its own thing, I cant help but enjoy. Bo at Ballard Creek is a juvenile title aimed at readers younger than the middle grade titles I Some books are like coming home, and for me reading Bo at Ballard Creek was like being wrapped in a warm, cozy blanket by a parent as I snuggled up for the evening. It’s quite unusual for a book I’ve never read before to give me that feeling, but when something manages to be so utterly in the vein of my childhood love of Little House, while very obviously doing its own thing, I can’t help but enjoy. Bo at Ballard Creek is a juvenile title aimed at readers younger than the middle grade titles I usually pick up, but again it called my name from the moment I saw its cover. Filled with the aptly charming illustrations of LeUyen Pham, Bo’s life in a small mining town in 1929 Alaska will leap off of the page and into your heart. Obviously the illustrations below are unfinished and from the ARC, however, I thought you readers might love to see several of my personal favorites from this book: Bo getting her hair done up in curls (which she despises), and Bo helping out at the sluicing. Bo is a young girl whose parenting has been taken on by two men in the mining camp, Jack and Arvid, who work as cook and blacksmith, respectively. The relationship is very ‘My Two Dads’ in a community where the only women around are either “good time” girls or the women of native Eskimo families, and also reflect diversity in Jack being an African American hailing from Louisiana and Arvid coming from Sweden. Bo’s world is one of community, friendship, and the wild, and through Kirkpatrick Hill’s words I was transported back to a time before great change came to the remote communities of Alaska. In Ballard Creek, despite the year, there are no automobiles or movie theaters–though tales of such things from the “city” of Fairbanks are well known. Mail is carried by boat in the summer and dogsled team in the winter, and the visit of an airplane marks a momentous occasion in all of the locals’ lives. Bo at Ballard Creek is the wonderful and informative kind of historical fiction that emmerses young readers in the everyday tasks of a lilihood no longer with us, here bringing us into gold mining practices, one-room school houses, and Eskimo traditions. While the small community is almost unrealistically open-armed and generous, this book also acknowledges some of the world’s harsh realities of the time and place, such as child abandonment, wilderness safety, and the need to pick up and move one’s livelihood when a claim was exhausted. Bo herself is quite the Pollyanna, but in the most charming Hayley Mills sense as opposed to the somewhat derogatory/annoying sense. She is a child who spends her life brightening the existence of those around her, be it her pappas, her Eskimo friends, the miners, or us readers. Through her ever-shining outlook this world that could so easily seem quaint or wrote is instead full of wonder. I particularly loved her visits with the miner who has adopted a slew of animals and her experience with jealousy and sisterhood through an orphaned boy who comes to town. Again, I realize Bo at Ballard Creek is a bit young for what many of us read, but I assure you that if you’re looking for that comfort read that takes you back to childhood, it’s an excellent choice. Definitely recommended for readers of all ages who enjoy historical fiction and life on the frontier. Original review posted at Bunbury in the Stacks.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Five year old Bo lives with her two Papas--African American Jack from Louisiana, and Arvid from Sweden--in a tiny mining town in 1929 Alaska. The town is truly multicultural, populated by Inuit and miners from all over the world, as well as a couple of good-time girls, a schoolteacher, a few old-timers, and the telegraph operator. In episodic fashion like 'Little House in the Big Woods,' we learn about all the activities during Bo's year, as she visits with all the town people, runs around with Five year old Bo lives with her two Papas--African American Jack from Louisiana, and Arvid from Sweden--in a tiny mining town in 1929 Alaska. The town is truly multicultural, populated by Inuit and miners from all over the world, as well as a couple of good-time girls, a schoolteacher, a few old-timers, and the telegraph operator. In episodic fashion like 'Little House in the Big Woods,' we learn about all the activities during Bo's year, as she visits with all the town people, runs around with her best friend Oscar (an Inuit), gets in a few fixes, and generally loves her life. Even if nothing stays the same forever, she knows she will always have her Papas to take care of her. I lovedlovedloved this book! It has all the elements that made me love the Little House books--all the wonderful description of life at that time and in that place--but also is a book for our times with all its multicultural characters living happily together, everyone adding value to the community. Bo's two Papas can be read any way the reader wants--they could just be close friends, since apparently many miners paired up with friends to start mines or just to save money, or they could be more than that. Up to the reader, because Bo doesn't care, and neither does anyone else in the village. It's really a book about place, and about love for neighbors, friends, and pets. Utterly charming, and even the explanations of the things that are not so charming (why Bo's mother isn't around, and what exactly good-time girls are) are couched in terms that Bo can understand and accept. The book makes you wish you were a small child in an Alaskan town, except maybe for the mosquitos that always fall in the pie dough. Otherwise, delightful.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Linnea

    genre: historical fiction summary: Bo has two fathers. She calls them both, "Papa". Her mother gave her away as an infant. Instead of taking her to the local orphanage two large, burly mining men decide to raise her as their own. Her papas are Jack (an African-american man from Louisiana) and Arvid (a man from Sweden). The book describes her life in the small mining-town of Ballard Creek Alaska during the late twenties. notes: the author stays true to the era and the problems that arise without genre: historical fiction summary: Bo has two fathers. She calls them both, "Papa". Her mother gave her away as an infant. Instead of taking her to the local orphanage two large, burly mining men decide to raise her as their own. Her papas are Jack (an African-american man from Louisiana) and Arvid (a man from Sweden). The book describes her life in the small mining-town of Ballard Creek Alaska during the late twenties. notes: the author stays true to the era and the problems that arise without glossing over too much or going into enough detail that would make it inappropriate for a children's book. prohibition is discussed as well as divorce, abandonment, and death without it getting too heavy. in addition two of the women in town (as well as Bo's birth mother) are described as "good time" or "fancy" girls. nothing else is discussed further but adult readers get the point. for kids who like: Little House series, Sarah Plain and Tall age group: age 8+ my review: interesting, a little sugar coated but i did enjoy that the author didn't deliberately shy away from certain topics. a lot like Laura Ingles Wilder books...a lot is described but not a lot really happens. **side note: the besides living together and raising a child nothing is really mentioned about Bo's papas as far as them being in a relationship/gay but for the purposes of the story i feel that whatever the answer....it is not essential to Bo's story. they love each other and they are all family, just like the town of Ballard Creek

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ms. Yingling

    In 1920s Alaska, Bo has been abandoned by her mother and has come into the care of Arvid, a blacksmith, and Jack, a cook for a mining company. The two burly men make a home for Bo with the help of the other people in the community. Bo's best friend, Oscar, is Eskimo, and Bo likes spending time with his mother and sister as well. She enjoys the retired "fancy ladies" Lilly and Yovela, even though they are much too fond of trying to curl her hair and dress her up. Most of the chapters are just In 1920s Alaska, Bo has been abandoned by her mother and has come into the care of Arvid, a blacksmith, and Jack, a cook for a mining company. The two burly men make a home for Bo with the help of the other people in the community. Bo's best friend, Oscar, is Eskimo, and Bo likes spending time with his mother and sister as well. She enjoys the retired "fancy ladies" Lilly and Yovela, even though they are much too fond of trying to curl her hair and dress her up. Most of the chapters are just descriptions of the seasonal activity that occurs in the small town throughout the year. When a small boy who does not speak shows up, Bo is taken by him, and after an aunt is located but doesn't want the boy, Grafton is also adopted by the kindly Arvid and Jack. Sadly, the shutting down of the Ballard Creek mining company means that the family has to move away, but they carry fond memories of their community with them. Strengths: This reminded me of the All-of-a-Kind Family books, most likely because it was rich with detail about everyday life in a setting with which I wasn't familiar. I loved how Bo, at age five, was in charge of making the biscuits. There is clearly a lot of research into the way of life at the time. The characters are delightful, and the LeUyen Pham illustrations are superb and add considerably to the story. Weaknesses: A bit slow paced, and most likely a hard sell to students older than sixth grade. When my third grade class spent the entire year studying Alaskan history in 1973, though, this would have been an awesome read aloud.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Michele

    "Bo at Ballard Creek" is the 2014 Scott O'Dell Award winner, for good reason, but what I loved most about this book is what a wonderful read-aloud it would be for kindergarten to probably second or third grade. As I was reading, it reminded me of another type of book. Finally, I realized it was "Little House in the Big Woods." I try not to read the back cover of a book until I've finished, because I don't want to be influenced or have any spoilers. When I did, I was surprised and pleased by this "Bo at Ballard Creek" is the 2014 Scott O'Dell Award winner, for good reason, but what I loved most about this book is what a wonderful read-aloud it would be for kindergarten to probably second or third grade. As I was reading, it reminded me of another type of book. Finally, I realized it was "Little House in the Big Woods." I try not to read the back cover of a book until I've finished, because I don't want to be influenced or have any spoilers. When I did, I was surprised and pleased by this Horn Book starred review: "The disarmingly forthright tone is set right at the start ... cheerful. Like "Little House in the Big Woods" but rambunctious." This is a quiet story. The kind that I think is becoming more rare. It has action in every chapter, but not the driving action that is so demanded by publishers these days. When I first started reading the book, I kept waiting for something dramatic. It took me a while to stop looking for an explosive incident and simply enjoy Bo, her "family,"--which is another important aspect of this book--,and the rhythm of her life in a in a gold mining town in 1930 Yukon. A final note: At first I was annoyed by the sentence structure: too many gerunds, helping verbs, what appears to be passive voice. I think this may have dropped off near the end of the book, but by then it didnt' matter. I'd just fallen in love with Bo.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Cristina

    I started reading this book to see if it would be a story my students would enjoy, the cover and illustrations are quite inviting. Unfortunately I put it down a few chapters in. The book is geared for 8-12 year olds, that's second grade to sixth grade, and I don't find it appropriate for my students. There are to many "damns" and "hells" and descriptions of professions "good time girls" that do not need to be explained to elementary children. The author writes well but I cannot in good conscious I started reading this book to see if it would be a story my students would enjoy, the cover and illustrations are quite inviting. Unfortunately I put it down a few chapters in. The book is geared for 8-12 year olds, that's second grade to sixth grade, and I don't find it appropriate for my students. There are to many "damns" and "hells" and descriptions of professions "good time girls" that do not need to be explained to elementary children. The author writes well but I cannot in good conscious recommend this book to my students within the classroom setting. If they find it on their own, at the public library, that's a different story. This isn't a YA novel, where I wouldn't be surprised with certain topics addressed, this is a book that is marketed for children. Parents, I recommend that you read this story first before you allow your child/children to read it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    When I delved into the first chapters of this book I thought, "well, this is an unusual story line: a baby abandoned by her 'goodtime girl' mother and basically shoved into the arms of 2 big, burly miners". As I read further I thought "Little House meets wild and wooley Alaska" and when I finished my mind was full of wonderful stories, memorable characters and a forthright portrayal of Alaska in the early 20th Century. Throughout the past few days bits and pieces of the book will come to mind When I delved into the first chapters of this book I thought, "well, this is an unusual story line: a baby abandoned by her 'goodtime girl' mother and basically shoved into the arms of 2 big, burly miners". As I read further I thought "Little House meets wild and wooley Alaska" and when I finished my mind was full of wonderful stories, memorable characters and a forthright portrayal of Alaska in the early 20th Century. Throughout the past few days bits and pieces of the book will come to mind and bring a smile. While this book is about a 5 year old girl it is also contains frank (but in no way explicit) explanations of that time and place. I think the book would appeal to kids 6 (as a readaloud) to 10, and to readers who really enjoy historical fiction. It is unique enough to keep the attention of this adult!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Besides showcasing a non-traditional definition of family, I loved this book for its darling illustrations, easy flow and style, and the depiction of multiple cultures. The primary focus is on the small mining town which incorporates a variety of nationalities, but the local Eskimo families are interwoven into the storyline as well. There is a frankness about this book that is unusual: "good-time girls" are frequently mentioned, as is child and spouse abandonment, death, and other realities of Besides showcasing a non-traditional definition of family, I loved this book for its darling illustrations, easy flow and style, and the depiction of multiple cultures. The primary focus is on the small mining town which incorporates a variety of nationalities, but the local Eskimo families are interwoven into the storyline as well. There is a frankness about this book that is unusual: "good-time girls" are frequently mentioned, as is child and spouse abandonment, death, and other realities of living in a mining town in Alaska in the 1930s. Some aspects would greatly please fans of other strong and imaginative young ladies such as Laura Ingalls, Betsy-Tacy, or Anne Shirley. While Bo is only 5, the audience for this story could be much older.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Angie

    An absolutely charming tale about a spunky little girl in 1920s Alaska who just happens to have two papas: big strapping gold miners named Arvid (the Swede) and Jack (the black blacksmith-cum-cook). Bo's a sweet, loveable little girl who learns both Eskimo and English and gets into a variety of small adventures and scrapes. Jack and Arvid are an endearing, caring pair, and the descriptions of life in the Alaskan wilds are fun and well-seasoned with realism. A Little House in the Prairie for a An absolutely charming tale about a spunky little girl in 1920s Alaska who just happens to have two papas: big strapping gold miners named Arvid (the Swede) and Jack (the black blacksmith-cum-cook). Bo's a sweet, loveable little girl who learns both Eskimo and English and gets into a variety of small adventures and scrapes. Jack and Arvid are an endearing, caring pair, and the descriptions of life in the Alaskan wilds are fun and well-seasoned with realism. A Little House in the Prairie for a new generation.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Hoover Public Library Kids and Teens

    I loved this! Boisterous and charming with a breath-taking Alaskan landscape. And I learned a lot about Eskimo culture.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

    This book is a little gem! Bo is a little girl with two papas that lives in a mining camp in Alaska in the 1920s. To find out how she got be such a lucky little girl and what adventures she had, you will have to read the book!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Katie Fitzgerald

    This review also appears on my blog, Read-at-Home Mom. When Bo was a baby, her Mama walked away, leaving her to be raised by two burly gold miners, Arvid and Jack. Now she is five years old, and everyone at Ballard Creek is a part of her extended family. She jokes around with the boys and imitates their accents. The good-time girls dress her up and do her hair. She speaks Eskimo along with English, and enjoys Eskimo foods such as akutaq, which is made from caribou bone marrow and fat. This book This review also appears on my blog, Read-at-Home Mom. When Bo was a baby, her Mama “walked away”, leaving her to be raised by two burly gold miners, Arvid and Jack. Now she is five years old, and everyone at Ballard Creek is a part of her extended family. She jokes around with “the boys” and imitates their accents. The “good-time girls” dress her up and do her hair. She speaks Eskimo along with English, and enjoys Eskimo foods such as akutaq, which is made from caribou bone marrow and fat. This book takes place over one year at Ballard Creek and tells tales of Bo’s adventures large and small. These include seeing an airplane up-close, being chased by a grizzly bear, catching pneumonia and watching her best friend go to school while she stays home. Through it all, Bo remains a buoyant and carefree little girl enjoying her childhood in late 1920s Alaska. When I reviewed Ann M. Martin’s first Family Tree book back in April, Ms. Yingling left a comment on my blog which read, “I will have to read this, but I do wish that historical fiction would be more humorous and adventure filled. it is hard enough to get students to read it.” Though I apparently did not reply to her comment, I remember thinking that she was right. My main issue with historical fiction as a kid was that it was depressing and everyone was always getting sick or dying or suffering some other tragedy. This is why Bo at Ballard Creek was like a breath of fresh air for me. This is a kid-friendly historical fiction book that focuses on the day-to-day life of people in a particular time and place without dwelling heavily on hardship. The age of the main character makes this a difficult book to categorize. Most middle grade readers would probably be turned off by the notion of reading about a character so much younger than themselves, but early chapter book readers don’t yet have the reading skills to tackle much of the vocabulary. While this might make the story difficult to catalogue in libraries, it also makes it a perfect family read-aloud, similar in style and tone to books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Carolyn Haywood, and Beverly Cleary. Young readers of all ages can enjoy the ups and downs of Bo’s exciting young life, and I think they are most likely to do so when the story is shared in a family context. I haven’t heard of any plans for a sequel, but I think it would be wonderful to have more stories about Bo as she ages, so that, like Ramona, she can grow up along with her readers. The writing alone makes Bo at Ballard Creek one of my favorite books of 2013, but the illustrations caused me to love it even more. LeUyen Pham, who also illustrates the Alvin Ho series, brings Bo’s world to life in her pen and ink drawings, which are scattered generously throughout the text. She is one of my favorite illustrators, and her pictures for this book are full of life and personality which helps immerse the reader in the unfamiliar but thoroughly interesting Alaskan setting. Pham’s artwork helps the reader keep track of the large cast of characters and also provides the necessary visual context young listeners need to help them stay focused on the story as their grown-ups read it aloud. Author Kirkpatrick Hill based much of Bo at Ballard Creek on her own personal experiences growing up in Fairbanks, Alaska, which makes the book not just entertaining, but also reliable and authentic. Though I was not previously familiar with this author, I am pleased that she has written several other Alaskan tales for children: Dancing at the Odinochka, The Year of Miss Agnes, Toughboy and Sister, and Winter Camp, many of which look like more traditional middle grade novels. Share Bo at Ballard Creek with boys and girls ages 4-10 who enjoy light-hearted historical adventures, and incorporate it into lesson plans and programs exploring the state of Alaska.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Julie Kirchner

    This book is nominated for a Maud Hart Lovelace award. I probably wouldnt have picked it up otherwise and Im glad I did. A fun, adventurous, historical fiction story that takes place in the 1920s at the end of the gold rush. Two men take in an orphan girl and together, with help from the rest of the camp, they raise her. Lots of fantastic characters and interesting storylines in the varied chapters. Kids will enjoy it. This book is nominated for a Maud Hart Lovelace award. I probably wouldn’t have picked it up otherwise and I’m glad I did. A fun, adventurous, historical fiction story that takes place in the 1920s at the end of the gold rush. Two men take in an orphan girl and together, with help from the rest of the camp, they raise her. Lots of fantastic characters and interesting storylines in the varied chapters. Kids will enjoy it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rachel B

    The illustrations were absolutely gorgeous and are the reason I picked this book up in the first place. It's too bad the text wasn't as wonderful as the pictures! This is supposedly geared for kids aged 8-12, but I didn't feel the content was appropriate. I had to edit a lot of this book while reading it out loud to my nieces. There is quite a bit of profanity (something that I don't like even in adult reads, but is completely unacceptable in a children's book). There are references to "good time The illustrations were absolutely gorgeous and are the reason I picked this book up in the first place. It's too bad the text wasn't as wonderful as the pictures! This is supposedly geared for kids aged 8-12, but I didn't feel the content was appropriate. I had to edit a lot of this book while reading it out loud to my nieces. There is quite a bit of profanity (something that I don't like even in adult reads, but is completely unacceptable in a children's book). There are references to "good time girls," cannibalism, and a paragraph stating how much the children liked to look at National Geographic magazines to see the photos of naked people. (Why include this...?) There is also an underlying anti-Christian theme. In addition to the evolution references and the instances of God's name taken in vain (which aren't terribly uncommon in any book), at one point a character says, "If there's a heaven, which I doubt..." (p.153) And when the school is described, it's contrasted with a Christian school and the author states, "At the mission school, they had learned nothing but the catechism and Bible verses, which they didn't think were very useful." (p. 186) The book had no plot, but was written more "memoir" style - each chapter was a little story of what happens in Ballard Creek and descriptions of the people who lived there. Normally, I like this kind of book, but I think that they need to have a strong theme that connects the stories, and this book lacked that.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Christie Burke

    I liked this a lot - it's a sweet story and the perspective (third-person, in the mind of a five-year-old girl) is pretty perfect. It's true that there is a *tiny* bit of language (hell; damned if I know; Jesus, I'd like to shake your hand), and it's true that Bo refers to some of her grownup friends as "good time girls." YMMV. The phrase isn't explained; the language is part of the everyday of the setting (1920s Alaska mining town). Because I was watching for the effect of those decisions in I liked this a lot - it's a sweet story and the perspective (third-person, in the mind of a five-year-old girl) is pretty perfect. It's true that there is a *tiny* bit of language (hell; damned if I know; Jesus, I'd like to shake your hand), and it's true that Bo refers to some of her grownup friends as "good time girls." YMMV. The phrase isn't explained; the language is part of the everyday of the setting (1920s Alaska mining town). Because I was watching for the effect of those decisions in the text, they stood out to me. They wouldn't have otherwise, I don't think. This is a story of a family whose members find each other due to circumstance. They live in a multicultural town where people care for each other as people. Everyone watches out for the kids as needed. And the author grew up in a similar setting (a little more recently), so it's reasonably accurate in that regard. (I do have questions about repeated use of "Eskimo." Would probably be historically accurate, but...) This book is a Scott O'Dell award winner for historical fiction and a nominee for the Maud Hart Lovelace Award (MN student choice). Because of the things I mentioned in the 2nd paragraph, I wanted to read before buying it for my school's library. Because of the things in the 3rd paragraph, I feel okay about putting it on the shelves.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Gardner

    I tried but could not get into this book. A few things grated on me: 1. I think Bo's papas, Jack and Arvid are gay. I fully support gay marriage but I wish this book would have handled the subject better. There's a story about how Bo came to Ballard Creek as an orphan and folks asked whose baby she was. "'That's your baby?' They asked Arvid, because they knew right away couldn't be mine, black as I am," Jack said. 'It's our baby,' Arvid told them." In my personal opinion, this book is intended I tried but could not get into this book. A few things grated on me: 1. I think Bo's papas, Jack and Arvid are gay. I fully support gay marriage but I wish this book would have handled the subject better. There's a story about how Bo came to Ballard Creek as an orphan and folks asked whose baby she was. "'That's your baby?' They asked Arvid, because they knew right away couldn't be mine, black as I am," Jack said. 'It's our baby,' Arvid told them." In my personal opinion, this book is intended for roughly grades 3-6. I wish the author would have found a way to acknowledge that Jack and Arvid are a couple, without it seeming like they're simply friends. Or, perhaps, I've read this wrong and they are friends. I disklike how it dances around the topic. 2. The story seemed drawn out. I suppose it works through a year chronologically, but I found myself getting a little bored. 3. Another reviewer commented on this and I agree: why is the main character of a juvenile fiction book six years old? She's spunky and cute, but I find that often times kids want to read about someone their own age. This book suits kids ages 8-13, not age 6.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    This book is what I would hand kids to read instead of Little House on the Prairie. Too many things in the Wilder books are dated and painful, while this is not. Taking place in the Yukon in the 1920s, this is a delightful little story about two big, hulking blacksmiths raising a little girl. It's a slice of life in a mining town in Alaska, over the course of a year. The reader learns a lot about life in that environment, including things about the native Alaskans and their culture. Bo and her This book is what I would hand kids to read instead of Little House on the Prairie. Too many things in the Wilder books are dated and painful, while this is not. Taking place in the Yukon in the 1920s, this is a delightful little story about two big, hulking blacksmiths raising a little girl. It's a slice of life in a mining town in Alaska, over the course of a year. The reader learns a lot about life in that environment, including things about the native Alaskans and their culture. Bo and her two "fathers" are great characters, each with depth and interesting quirks which are part of the story. In general, the characters are very well developed, and are the strength of the book. There are a few problems with the book. One is that it will leave children asking questions about the "good time girls" who hang around mining towns, and why one of them had a spare baby to dispose of. Another is that the story is clearly the start of a longer story, and thus feels a little incomplete. Still, the next time that someone is telling me how wonderful Little House on the Prairie is, I will show them this book, so that they can see what GOOD historical fiction for children can be like.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Jacobson

    Eh. There is better literature out there. I won't waste my time on this again. DNF- the writing was ok and it was a look at a culture that's not written about often, so there is nothing terribly wrong with it. There are just better things out there I want to read. The main character, Bo, has 2 dads, but there is no explanation as to whether this is a homosexual relationship or whether these are two friends that are living together (I guess that happened at the time since single men traveled from Eh. There is better literature out there. I won't waste my time on this again. DNF- the writing was ok and it was a look at a culture that's not written about often, so there is nothing terribly wrong with it. There are just better things out there I want to read. The main character, Bo, has 2 dads, but there is no explanation as to whether this is a homosexual relationship or whether these are two friends that are living together (I guess that happened at the time since single men traveled from far away and were lonely, so wanted a family of sorts). I can see the point being made, advocating for acceptance and the fact that it doesn't matter what their relationship was- they were a good family and loved Bo. But it felt weird in the context of the story. It didn't fit.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ms. B

    I really enjoyed this one! Set in 1929, we don't really know how old Bo is. We only know that she is too young to attend school. Set at a mining camp in a small town in Alaska, each chapter is its own little sweet story about what happens to Bo or the various townspeople through the course of a year. With short chapters and darling illustrations by LeUyen Pham, it's an easy one to read, set down, and read again when one has time. Give this one to fans of Louise Erdrich's Birchbark House series, I really enjoyed this one! Set in 1929, we don't really know how old Bo is. We only know that she is too young to attend school. Set at a mining camp in a small town in Alaska, each chapter is its own little sweet story about what happens to Bo or the various townspeople through the course of a year. With short chapters and darling illustrations by LeUyen Pham, it's an easy one to read, set down, and read again when one has time. Give this one to fans of Louise Erdrich's Birchbark House series, Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series, or those who are fascinated by all things Alaska.

  26. 5 out of 5

    VadaK

    This is an inspiring story of humanity even in the most unlikely places. Two tough and rough miners come into the company of a tiny baby girl and decide to keep her to raise. Bo becomes a joy to all in the town as she is a reminder of everything that is good and happy in the world. The details about the Alaskan wild during this time frame seem to be well researched. This accuracy adds to the interest of the book for readers. Bo and her unusual parents have adventures throughout the chapters of This is an inspiring story of humanity even in the most unlikely places. Two tough and rough miners come into the company of a tiny baby girl and decide to keep her to raise. Bo becomes a joy to all in the town as she is a reminder of everything that is good and happy in the world. The details about the Alaskan wild during this time frame seem to be well researched. This accuracy adds to the interest of the book for readers. Bo and her unusual parents have adventures throughout the chapters of this book. This book was the winner of the 2014 Scott O'Dell award.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Deb Diner

    The brilliance of this book is in its ability to be sweet without ever being cloying, to be optimistic without ever becoming trite, and to present the details of a time gone by without relying on stereotype or nostalgia to carry the reader through. I cannot recommend it enough. You will learn about life in an Alaska gold mine town, you will fall in love with each and every character, you will stay on the edge of your seat as Bo finds her way through life. Read it!!!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Johnson

    Because life is too short to force myself into a book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Foothill Library! Salt Lake City Public Library

    A quaint Alaskan mining town offers plenty of adventure and friendships for a spirited young girl. Charmingly written with characters youll easily grow fond of. ~Scott A quaint Alaskan mining town offers plenty of adventure and friendships for a spirited young girl. Charmingly written with characters you’ll easily grow fond of. ~Scott

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Ellen Davis

    Really cute book. Great piece of historical fiction. I think kids will really like the spunky character of Bo, and the cast she lives with.

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