CYBILS REVIEW: Bo at Ballard Creek by Kirkpatrick Hill
ABOUT THE BOOK
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.
Five-year-old Bo lives with Jack, an African American cook and Arvid, the mine blacksmith who adopted her when her mother rejected her. She loves the village she lives in and spends her time helping Jack in the kitchen and visiting the neighbors. Bo does have her share of challenges though, everything from sickness to bears and lost little boys, but with the help of her friends and adopted family she manages to make her way through.
Strengths: Bo is a darling little girl with lots of heart and people that care about her. The details about the time and place are vivid and interesting. Pham's illustrations provide a nice touch help show what Bo and her family and friends are like. I really enjoyed this one, just a cute story about growing up in a specific time and place and the challenges and changes associated with Alaska in the 1920s. I also appreciated how careful the author was about including certain details like the 'good-time' girls. No further information is provided other than their presence in helping the miners have a good time. The book is well-written and easy to read. I personally loved the book.
Weaknesses: I'm really not sure why the author made the main character only 5-years-old. It's an unusual age for the main character of a middle grade novel. Would be fun for a family read-a-loud, but I am not sure how many children will pick it up on their own, especially since it is historical fiction as well. Some of the mining details may not be appreciated by the target audience. Also, it doesn't have a really exciting plot like so many kids want to read these days. There is also a bit of bad language which isn't necessary, although probably realistic relating to the time and place.