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The Gold Rush
Little, Brown
ISBN 0-316-49047-4
companion to Ken Burns'
PBS documentary
The West
find this book at
your favorite library or
used bookstore
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The Gold Rush


About the Book

On January 24, 1848, a gold nugget was found at Sutter’s Mill in California. This tiny chunk of gold changed American history forever—and guess who found it? The Gold Rush answers that question—and others. In this book, you will meet some of the fascinating characters infected with “gold fever,” as well as the state’s Native Americans and Californios whose lives were turned upside down by the invasion. Illustrated with more than a hundred period photographs, prints, maps, and drawings.

Awards and Distinctions

ABA Pick of the List, 1996
National Council of Social Studies/
   Children’s Book Council Notable Book, 1997
New York Public Library Books for the Teenage, 1997


“These books are a literary and historical tour de force. How lucky children are to have this chance to experience the Old West as it really was when it was still new!” (historian Jean Fritz)

Behind the Book

FAQ: What inspired you to write this book?

I was invited to create this book as a companion to a PBS television series The West. I learned a lot about the gold rush when I researched my first novel, West Against the Wind. But I had to do even more research for the non-fiction book, so that I could tell the story of this event from many different points of view.

FAQ: What was it like to write a companion book for a television series?

I was fascinated by the series, and used the television script as an outline. Like the show’s producer, Stephen Ives, I wanted to tell the stories of everyone involved. I used a combination of people I found while doing my research—as well as some of the fascinating characters described by the West project.

Lesson plans are available for the PBS series, The West.

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