Carson, Rae. Walk on Earth a Stranger. New York: Greenwillow Books, 2015. 978-0-062-24291-4. 448 p. $17.99. Gr. 7-12.
Fifteen year old Leah Westfall lives on a quaint farm in the rural town of Dahlonega, Georgia, with her mother and father. It’s 1849, and word of the California Gold Rush hits the area, exciting locals and sending ambitious prospectors west. Among this excitement, Leah holds dear to a secret; she can feel the presence of gold much like a bloodhound can find a scent. With her “witchy” sense, Leah and her family make a comfortable living, never drawing attention to themselves. But one day Leah arrives home to find her parents robbed and murdered, and her spiteful Uncle Hiram set on exploiting Leah’s gift. Frightened and alone, Leah heads west after her best friend Jefferson, who is half Cherokee. After being robbed again, and often seen as insignificant as a girl, Leah disguises herself as Lee, a runaway boy looking for work. While desperately trying to conceal her gender and her gold sense, Leah also realizes that her Uncle Hiram will do anything in his power to find her. Leah’s journey is both physically and mentally difficult; she experiences rampant racism, sexism, disease, hunger, thirst, stampeding buffalo, and one tricky amputation; all which shape her character and strength. Carson spent time researching the time period and it shows; the story mirrors the taxing but rewarding experience of families headed west during the Gold Rush, while weaving a coherent and exciting story. THOUGHTS Readers will find Leah a smart, empathetic, and strong protagonist, eager to finish the journey with her- and eager for a sequel, too!
Historical Fiction (California Gold Rush) Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School