Dear Cousin Sallie,
I begin with words I never thought to write:
I am not an orphan!
Thirteen-year-old Eldora has always believed that her mother died when she was very little, and for nine years she has lived with people that she calls Aunt and Uncle. The year is 1850, and all three have exchanged their quiet lives in New Bedford, Massachusetts, for new ones in San Francisco, the rapidly growing city that is the heart of the California Gold Rush. Shortly after their arrival, they receive a letter from an unknown woman who believes she is Eldora's mother. She is eager to meet her long-lost daughter, and a visit is arranged. As Eldora deals with her conflicting feelings about this news, she must also adjust to the challenges -- and dangers -- of living in a brash and growing city. She finds herself teaching English to two Mexicano children and beginning to learn Spanish, and an unlikely friendship with a boy named Luke introduces her to the hard, sometimes humorous, and often violent world of the mining camps. Every day seems to bring something different and new to consider. But can Eldora discover where -- and to whom -- she belongs?
Told in letters that ring with the voice of the times, Letters from the Corrugated Castle is an intriguing adventure set in a fascinating time in California's history -- a worthy conclusion to the geographical trilogy begun with A Gathering of Days, winner of the Newbery Medal, and Brothers of the Heart.
Told through a series of letters and newspaper dispatches, Newbery Medalist Blos's (A Gathering of Days) latest novel recounts the excitement and dangers of San Francisco during the Gold Rush. Believing herself an orphan, Eldora has lived with an adoptive family, the Holts, in New Bedford, Mass., since she was three years old. The Holts move to San Francisco to take advantage of Gold Rush prosperity, where they learn Eldora's mother is still alive; soon after, 13-year-old Eldora and her mother, Mrs. Ramos, are reunited. (When Eldora was a girl, her mother was stricken with cholera on a sea voyage and was forced to send her daughter on without her when her father could not be located, Eldora fell into the Holts' care.) At her mother's suggestion, Eldora moves to San Pedro where her mother, now a wealthy landowner, lives and runs an inn. Through the letters Eldora writes to her cousin Sallie back in New Bedford (and letters Eldora receives from Luke, whom Eldora met in San Francisco), readers will learn about the perils, dreams and daily routines that were part of these pioneers' lives. With her mother away so often tending to business, Eldora grows lonely and yearns to return to San Francisco and to her life with the Holts. Suffused with a wealth of period details and language, this quiet, reflective tale is an appealing glimpse into the adventurous spirit that pervaded this chapter of American history. Ages 10-14.