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A Tale of Gold

post written by Emma Filbrun

Title: A Tale of Gold
Author: Thelma Hatch Wyss
Major Themes: Canada, Gold Rush, Survival, Yukon, Historical Fiction, 19th Century, US History 1865-1900, Books for Boys
Synopsis: After he loses his job and home, an orphan boy heads north to join the Yukon Gold Rush.

When I was in the States a few months ago, I went to a few secondhand shops one day with some relatives. At one, we sorted through several bins of books to see if we could find any treasures. One book that caught my eye was A Tale of Gold by Thelma Hatch Wyss. I had never read it or even heard of it, but it looked like it might be an interesting story, so, because it was quite cheap I bought it. A couple of weeks ago, one of my sons chose it for me to read aloud—and it was instantly popular! We mostly read it after lunch on school days, but my one son who works away from home heard the first couple of chapters, and made his brothers keep him up-to-date on what we read each day—and if he saw a chance for me to read aloud while he was home, he begged for another chapter.

James worked as a hack driver in San Francisco when the story began in the summer of 1897. A ship docked from the Yukon, and when people from the ship started showing off the gold nuggets they had, a gold rush started instantly. After losing his job and home, James joined the rush. The trip north on an overloaded steamer was…eventful, and he started learning to recognize con-men—but not well enough, as he later learned, to his chagrin.

Once James landed, his next set of challenges began. The Canadian Mounties required each person to have a ton of provisions before setting out up the Yukon River; everything had to be packed up a long, steep pass and over the mountains, then boated hundreds of miles to Skagway. And, a partner was a necessity. What could he do about all this? He set to work—and things finally fell into place. But would he be able to stake a claim? And would there be any gold on his claim?

This is a story of a boy growing up. It is also a story of a boy learning what is worth more than gold, and a story of what a family is. It is a tale of resilience, and survival in the face of great odds. Any boy who enjoys a good adventure will love this book!

WARNING: Chapter 2: Tarnation, men cussing, a bullet nearly hits an organ-grinder’s monkey. Chapter 4: James holds a knife to a thief’s neck, con men cussing. Chapter 6: men cussing and fighting, men waiting and cussing. Chapter 7: man cursing. Chapter 13: nude murals. Several times, a girl mentions “ladies of the night.”

Age Levels:

Read Aloud—Ages 8 – 12
Reading Independently—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12, 12 – 15


Links to buy A Tale of Gold:

Amazon: Paperback | Kindle | Hardcover

AbeBooks: View Choices on

Book Depository: Paperback


Canada, Gold Rush, Survival, Yukon, Historical Fiction, 19th Century, US History 1865-1900, Books for Boys

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