Sunday, February 13, 2011

Calico Dorsey: Mail Dog of the Mining Camps, by Susan Lendroth (ages 5 - 9)

I've often wondered what can draw children into wanting to learn more about history. Some are drawn in by exciting conflicts, and others are drawn in by heroic struggles. But others need a simpler story that they can connect to. Calico Dorsey is a perfect story to help dog-loving kids imagine what it might have been like to live in the rural silver mining camps of California. Susan Lendroth's story will delight kids with its "dog saves the day" story, and it will provide a great launch for talking about the Gold Rush and Silver Mining eras in California history.
Calico DorseyCalico Dorsey
Mail Dog of the Mining Camps

by Susan Lendroth
illustrations by Adam Gustavson
NY: Tricycle Press / Random House, 2010
ages 5 - 9
available on Amazon and at your local library
In the 1880s, gold and silver miners worked throughout isolate, mountainous areas of California. In the desert mountains of southern California, the miners at the Bismark silver mine needed a mail carrier they could count on. Many days were just too hot for the ownder of the general store, Al Stacy, to treck over the mountains to Calico, the nearest town. When Al discovered that his dog, a Border collie named Dorsey, was making the trek back to Calico on his own, Al decided to see if Dorsey really could carry the mail. Based on a true story, Calico Dorsey tells the tale of a courageous, loyal dog who found a home on the mining trails of the Old West.

Children will love the illustrations by Adam Gustavson. He brings alive the eager, loyal nature of the Border collie Dorsey. Gustavson's rich oil paintings are full of historical details, showing the rural setting of the silver mines and the clothing and furnishings of the late 1880s. Young pet lovers will definitely be able to wonder if their own dog could do the same thing.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Adam Gustavson last year as part of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour. I was fascinated by the amount of historical research he delves into when creating illustrations for historical fiction. I'm thrilled to read that he is doing illustrations for the upcoming The Trouble with May Amelia, by Jennifer Holm.

Teachers will wish that Lendroth and Gustavson included a map to show the location of the Bismark silver mine and Calico, California. There is an author's note about the history behind the story, but no sources to find out more information. Both of these would have been helpful, since I'm sure that teachers will enjoy using this to bring students into thinking about life in the Gold Rush and Silver Mining eras of California history.
The Ballad of Lucy Whipple
Readers who love the dog adventure will enjoy reading Owney the Mail-Pouch Pooch, by Mona Kerby. Readers wanting to learn more about life during the California gold and silver mining eras might enjoy reading The Ballad of Lucy Whipple, by Karen Cushman.

Do you love sharing nonfiction with children? Check out Nonfiction Monday, hosted today by Wrapped in Foil for many other wonderful recommendations.

The review copy was kindly sent by Tricycle Press and Random House Publishers. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion will go to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you). Thank you for your support!

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