Thursday, July 18, 2013

Badge of Honor by Susan K. Marlow (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

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Susan K. Marlow and Kregel Publications recently offered the Crew students an opportunity to read either Badge of Honor or Tunnel of Gold ($7.99 + $2.50 s/h each, or $13.95 + $3.00 s/h for the pair).  These are the the first two books of the Goldtown Adventures series.   We chose the first one because it was the beginning of the series.

Matthew's Summary:

The main character in Badge of Honor is a twelve-year old boy named Jem.   He loved to go searching for gold with an old prospector named Strike.  He did not like when his little sister, Ellie, tagged along.  Jem's dog was named Nugget.  He was a stray dog that usually chased cats and squirrels, but became Jem's dog after he chased Jem's cousin, Nathan, up into a tree and then followed the boys home.  Jem's father was a rancher who became the sheriff. Jem is not so happy about this.  He's afraid people will tease him about being the sheriff's son.  When Strike disappears, the miners are worried about what happened to him.  Jem, Ellie, and Nathan find Strike tied up in a cave high in the mountains.  Claim jumpers had kidnapped him! Jem's father uses his powers as Sheriff to hunt down the jumpers, and eventually finds them.  Jem sees that having his father be the Sheriff is a good thing - he knows that jumpers are now in jail and won't hurt anybody else.

 Matthew's opinion:
I liked this book because it's during the time after the Gold Rush, but there is still gold to be found. Jem and his sister's dad became the sheriff of the town.  I think Jem is happy for his dad to be the sheriff, because he was a better and more protective father.  He was more involved in their upbringing, and seemed like he wasn't as sad about Jem's mother's death.

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  I think that's a pretty good summary of the story. This series is geared to children ages 9-13, and it is well suited to them.  One thing I liked was that while there was a definite Christian influence, it wasn't "hit you over the head with a gold pan."  When faced with struggles, the characters turned to prayer. When Ellie and Jem are hiding, she asked him to tell her a story.  He realizes the only ones he knows are of gold miners and of Biblical events - probably pretty common for the children of the time.  The author carefully chooses the passage she has Jem recite (he whispers "The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear..." and continues through the rest of Psalm 27).  The idea of "when you don't know what else to do, pray" is well executed, without Jem coming across as "holier than thou."  Definitely a plus when reading a book "for fun" - I know there have been several Christian novels I have set aside because I felt like I was being bludgeoned with a Bible. God was organically woven into the story - so well, that while Matthew told me about Jem's praying, he didn't notice it as any different than if he had chosen a mining story.  When we discussed the book, it stood out more (probably because I asked leading questions!) but he felt it added to the story, and wasn't "shoved in just to quote the Bible." 

My feeling is that the reason Susan Marlow can do this so well is because she has been writing since she was ten years old!   She enjoys writing historical fiction because of all the research involved - to get a good feel for things, she visits the areas she's writing about and has even tried panning for gold! This definitely shines through in this book.  The descriptions of the locations are so vivid, you can really sense them;  the setting comes to life and is not related in an academic description. The author and publisher also offer a downloadable PDF study guide for if you want to turn the book into part of a Literature or even cross-curricular unit study.

We really enjoyed Badge of Honor. While the main protaganist is a boy, it's definitely interesting reading for both boys and girls.  Celia is still working her way through the Adventures of Lily Lapp series, but has this book on her to-read list.  We are also looking forward to reading book two, Tunnel of Gold.

There were lots of other families exploring reading these stories. 
Click to read about their Adventures in Goldtown.


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  1. Hey, Meg,
    Thanks for the interesting and encouraging review of Badge. I LOVE your "hit you over the head with a gold pan" remark. LOL That is SO true. Oh, the times I've SKIMMED Christian books to "get on with the story," both in adult books and in kids' books. Grrrr. It drives me nuts.
    Please, just give me the story and let the characters lives "preach" the word. NOT the author. It is a pet peeve of mine. I'm so glad you felt I accomplished that goal.

    I love the picture of your son reading the book for Pinterest. If I may, would you be willing to let me post it on my FB fan page, as I want to give a big "thank you" to the TOS Crew for reviewing the book(s)?

    Thanks. My email is
    (My blogger account is set on the blog the character from my girls' historical "writes," so don't be confused. It's really me.)

    Susan Marlow

    1. Absolutely! I'd be honored. Thanks for reading and commenting!


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