Book Reviews

By the great horn spoon

by Neekta B., Age 9 , Grade 4, Cornerstone, Rancho Palos Verdes, CALIFORNIA USA
Teacher: Stacy Upton

It is the year 1848, and twelve-year old Jack and his butler Praiseworthy are heading to the gold fields. Initially they bought tickets to sail to California on the ship The Lady Wilma, but unfortunately, those tickets are stolen by a pickpocket who is also attracted to California by gold.

            Unlike other men, however, Jack and Praiseworthy do not have dreams of becoming rich. Jack and Praiseworthy began their adventure to the gold fields when Jack finds out that his Aunt Arabella and his sisters will lose everything in a year! Jack and Praiseworthy are determined to reach California, with a ticket or without, and hide in barrels of potatoes as stowaways. After a day or two stuck with the cold and no food, Praiseworthy suggests that they go to the captain to improve their conditions. Jack thought this idea was outrageous, but they went to the captain and told them of the story about how their ticket was stolen by a pickpocket. In the end, they were shoveling coal in the coalbunkers, but this was not so much of a punishment, because the roaring fire was more of a treat.

            However, as they got closer to the equator, their conditions didn’t seem anything as good. Aside from being warm, they were now sweating from the combined heat of the sun and the fire. The came up with a plan to catch the thief that had robbed them, and found out that the thief was an imposter, pretending to be a judge. The captain made shovel coal instead, but unfortunately, he escaped a little later, but not until he stole the treasure map of one of the other passengers.

            Finally, after five long months at sea, The Lady Wilma arrived at San Francisco. When Jack and Praiseworthy arrive, the discover that everything is extremely expensive. To make enough money to get to the diggings, they cut miners’ hair to make money (the hair is full of gold dust.) Praiseworthy spilled the gold dust into the fingers of his glove. On the way to the diggings, they meet up with road agents. Praiseworthy hits one with the glove that he had filled with gold dust and the road agent goes flying! This earns Praiseworthy the nickname of Bullwhip! 

Unfortunately, they have trouble finding a claim for themselves, but scrape up enough money to buy a burro and look for a claim somewhere else. They have to come back by the fifteenth of August, however, because the Mountain Ox has challenged Praiseworthy to a boxing match, and Praiseworthy agreed!

In the meantime, Praiseworthy and Jack have plenty of time to look for Cut-Eye Higgins.  They find that he is about to be hanged, and make a deal with them for him to give them the map if they help him survive. They agree, but unfortunately the map is useless. Praiseworthy, true to his word, convinces The Justice of the Peace to spare Higgins. He and Jack also need to dig a grave for Higgins, because he will eventually need it. The grave is only four feet deep when Praiseworthy and Jack hit bedrock. And strike gold!

Once they have emptied as much of the gold that they can, they head back to fight the Mountain Ox, and Praiseworthy wins!  Soon, they go back to San Francisco. Sadly, in the boat to San Francisco, everyone aboard is thrown aboard. Jack and Praiseworthy have to let go of their gold to make it up to the surface, and reach San Francisco practically penniless. Suddenly, Jack and Praiseworthy spot Aunt Arabella and Jack’s sisters, Constance and Sarah! Praiseworthy feels courageous, and asks Aunt Arabella if she would marry him. Aunt Arabella is delighted, and says she thought he would never ask.

All in all, By the Great Horn Spoon is an intriguing novel full of adventures and surprises. Jack and Praiseworthy always make a positive twist on anything that crosses their path.

Neekta Baghoolizadeh


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