Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Ballad Of Lucy Whipple

I mentioned that we devoured The Ballad of Lucy Whipple a couple of weeks ago. We really enjoyed the book, but I'm really glad I went with reading a hard copy & not listening to an audio version of the book.

The story follows California Morning, the daughter of a couple who always dreamed of heading west to find their fortune in California, as she and her family arrive at their final destination in California. They land in a small mining town that is nothing more then tents and mud. California, who later changes her name to Lucy, is in the depths of despair and wants nothing more then to get back to her grandparents in Boston.

The story gives you a great taste of what it was like in the diggings. The good, the bad, & the downright ugly. This isn't about a family who was there to mine gold themselves, but rather a family that is working a boarding house in the town. Not an easy job when your "house" is a tent and the rooms you let are simply cots sectioned off with blankets and sheets to give you the feel of privacy.

There is a lot that happens in the story that I won't mention because it's such a good book I'd hate to spoil the surprises that lay ahead for the readers. There is, however, a few things in the book that I chose to edit out while reading aloud to my children. Lucy is asked to teach her little brother Butte. The aim is that she's to "educate" him because his personal education from hanging out with miners consists of knowing 43 different names for Whiskey. He aims to learn 50. There are a few names, that while indeed true names for the drink aren't words I'd really want to hear my children speaking. I chose to edit those names but read the scene. I really think you need to read this scene due to something that happens later in the book.

It's a very sad thing that happens in the book, and took all of us by surprise. In fact, I confess to choking up and having to stop reading for a few minutes, but had I skipped the entire whiskey naming scene then there's a portion of this sad thing that won't make sense later on.

There's also a family that is introduced in the middle of the book. They are considered wild and no-gooders, but I think an adult will quickly pick up that the family is actually suffering at the hands of an abuser. Wrongs are righted with this family, but not before you find out that their Pa is a wicked man. The wrongs are righted when it's discovered that their Pa is dead, shot. It's discovered that their Ma shot him & a trial is held. Ma is let off the hook because they find out how mean Pa was truly being to her at that moment.

Another scene in the book involves the eldest daughter in this family. She's taking Lucy to see where she captured a beautiful dragonfly. Both girls stumble across a little Indian girl who appears to be sick. When Lucy sticks out her hand to help the little girl, her friend pulls her back and a small discussion takes place about the "bleeding a woman does.." I skipped this entire scene entirely for my boys, but confess that it is an amusing scene in regards to how the girls think of what it all means. I knew my boys would have too many questions about it and thus chose to skip it all together.

Other then that we fully enjoyed the book. Both boys fully enjoyed the book {as they know it}, & have been discussing Lucy Whipple for weeks now. We chose to map the route out that Lucy and her family took to get to California & then the boys enjoyed writing a small book report about the book as well. Not something we do for every book, but I thought it would be fun for this particular title. We won't, however, be using those book report pages again. I think the slimmer width of an A4 sheet of paper was more then it could cope with and the space to write in was just too tiny for us!

All in all, it was a fun way to see the Gold Rush from a female point of view. Not to mention a view that showed some of the more harsher aspects of what life was like during that time. It'll be interesting to see if the boys pick up on any of the differences when we read By The Great Horn Spoon, which they are extremely familiar with. It too gives an amazing detailed account of life in the gold fields, but it does so from the view of a miner!


Dawn said...

Thanks for the wonderful review.

Nancy said...

That is wonderful what great ideas! I am so disorganized this year but it's still a productive year so far! Today, I am going to try to organize better. I love your learning room!

Nancy said...

Whoops! I meant for this comment to go under your organization post! (which I already posted on a few days ago!!) See, I am so disorganized that I cannot even comment correctly on people's blogs!