No. 3: By the Great Horn Spoon, by Sid Fleischman

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Imagine a story where a stiff, respectable butler becomes the adult responsible for his twelve-year-old master and they both leave England for California, during the California Gold Rush. If your imagination fails you, (as mine certainly did), then go on reading.(If you’re capable of imagining the above scenario, then there’s probably no need for you to read either the book or this review, but don’t stop here).

The butler is possibly the most competent the world has seen (of course, this was before our man Jeeves was born) so obviously his name is Praiseworthy. How entirely appropriate. His young master (the twelve-year-old) isn’t quite so awe-inspiring, and thus he is doomed to go through life under an entirely ordinary name- Jack.
Anyway, little boy Jack and Praiseworthy go on a rollicking adventure, wherein they brush shoulders with several interestingly-named characters. Cut-eye Higgins, Dr. Buckbee, Quartz Jackson, and Two-fingered Pancake Flipping Pamela-from-Pennsylvania. (The last one was made up. Actually, they were all made up, but the last one was made up by me.)
But of course, the question here is “Why?” Why do Jack and his butler leave England for foreign territory? Well, the answer is fairly simple. They were broke.
This is an interesting take on the California Gold Rush. There is quite a lot of cold, hard fact mixed with the fiction. There were scores of men, women, and children (To be honest, only men. Women were a rarity, and children were non-existent, unless of course, they were boys) jumping on ships to arrive in California. Rumours spread like wildfire, about children and inexperienced men who’d struck it rich quick. These tales lured many to California, Praiseworthy and Jack among them. Many more miners, however, remained poor, and eventually lost hope of ever finding gold.
And just because I couldn’t end this review without commenting on the picture, the shorter, leaner man is Praiseworthy. That’s right. The polished, sophisticated butler gets in a fistfight. California does things to people, doesn’t it?

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