This is in a series of children's books called I Witness. I looked on the Internet, and other than the book I read last year by Avi called Iron Thunder, I haven't seen what other books are part of this series, or if there are any other authors. But like Iron Thunder, this had lots of diagrams and maps showing scenes from those times. While Iron Thunder was during the Civil War, Hard Gold takes place during the gold rush as you might guess. The Pike's Peak gold rush in particular. The main character is named Early, his family is close to losing their farm due to mortgages being called in, and the fact that the railroad wants to run their track right through Early's family's farm. Early's uncle, who is actually only a few years older than him is named Jesse. He wants to go out west to get the money they need in the big gold rush, but Early's father says they can't go, they're needed to stay and help at the farm, and it costs money to go that they don't have. Well, one night, the bank is robbed, and the next day, Jesse is gone. Early decides to go out and look for Jesse without telling his parents. So, he sees a sign and signs up to help a family go. This family is a man who is a barber, his sickly wife, and his daughter Lizzy, who her father wants her to be more ladylike. Early and Lizzy hit it off, and we get to follow their trip through the Nebraska and Kansas territory to get to Pike's Peak. There are good times and sad times, as well as dangerous times as a Mr. Mawr is following along, trying to find Jesse and get the money from the bank robbery back as well.
I did like this story quite a bit. But I liked Iron Thunder really well as well, and it was not a finalist on the Mark Twain for this year, so who knows if my vote on this will go far either.
Next book I started last night is The Mysterious Case of the Allbright Academy by Diane Stanley, it is starting out pretty good.