Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Reading Through History: Bandit's Moon by Sid Fleischman (1998)

Set in the early 1850s, Bandit's Moon is the story of a young girl named Annyrose Smith, who has been imprisoned by a nasty old woman named O.O. Mary. When she makes her escape, she immediately sets out to look for her older brother, Lank, from whom she has become separated, but instead, she falls in with a gang of bandits led by Joaquin Marieta, the Mexican Robin Hood. Though she deplores Joaquin's dishonest behavior, she can't help but be charmed by his personality, and she does her best to help him before ultimately making another very narrow escape.

Like Weasel and Mr. Tucket, Bandit's Moon is another adventure story from the early days of the American West. Though the main character in this story is a girl and the main villain a real person, there is very little else to differentiate this story from the others. Details about the actual Gold Rush are few and far between, and instead the story focuses mainly on Annyrose's feelings of warmth and concern toward Joaquin. It's an entertaining read, which introduces a larger-than-life historical figure most kids probably would not otherwise learn about, but as a historical lesson about the time period, it would fall pretty flat. Though the main character is much younger, Bo at Ballard Creek does a much better job of exploring the daily life of gold prospectors from a more realistic and less romanticized point of view.

Sid Fleischman's talent as a writer is evident in the McBroom books and in his Newbery winning novel, The Whipping Boy, but this book is less memorable. I would keep it on hand for kids who love this time period - and for girls requesting adventure stories with female protagonists  - but I will likely forgo using it for homeschooling.

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