I read and enjoyed Mr. Tucket a little over a year ago, so I was happy to find this the fourth volume in the Mr. Tucket series.
They’re an interesting kind of family, Francis, Lottie, and Billy are. Fifteen-year old Francis himself has been on his own in the wild prairie for over a year now and can take care of himself, but Lottie and Billy were helpless when he found them at the side of their cholera stricken father, completely abandoned by the wagon train with which they had traveled. That was when he took them in and began to take care of them. And he’s got his work cut out for him, too. Take right now, for instance. They’ve just escaped from a Comanchero band and are making tracks for the hills. It won’t be long before they find the trail. If only we could make it into the mountains…
Luckily, an outburst of rain thunders down on the plain, concealing their tracks. And Billy, while fooling around on the riverbank, discovers a cave with Spanish gold in it. The children are excited by their discovery. Now, when they finally make it back to civilization, they’ll be rich!
When Francis is bit by a rattlesnake and the children fall into the hands of a group of Indians, Francis worries. Will the Indians steal their gold? And will he even live to care about it?
At only ninety-seven pages long, this is by far the shortest book that I have read by Gary Paulsen. And it needed the extra pages. To be honest, Tucket’s Gold, beginning as it did just after a desperate escape and ending just before a joyful reunion, felt more like a bridge between two stories rather than a story itself. Sure, there was a little bit of action – gold is discovered, a rattlesnake bite is sustained, and a murder attempt is thwarted. But instead of having the classic building of excitement up to a thrilling moment and then settling into a denouement, Tucket’s Gold began with a lessening of excitement, recorded a few exiting moments that did not direct the flow of the story, and ended before anything could really happen.
On one of the very last pages, Billy shoots and kills two mean men who have bound Francis and Lottie and stolen their gold. It isn’t gruesome, but the placement of the shots is described (one to the neck, one in the chest, etc.).
When Francis, Lottie, and Billy come to an Indian village and takes up with a boy named Two Toes. Lottie says of the two boys, “all they talk about is hunting and girls.” [pg. 74] Billy begins to dress and act like an Indian, and when he first addresses Francis after his recovery, he says, “I thought you were going to the spirit world. It is good you are not.” [pg. 83] Before, Billy was a capricious little boy who liked to complain. Now, he is still capricious, but he is more mature about it.
While Francis is sick, he experiences delirium “peopled with strange beings and spirits.” [pg. 71] He briefly thinks that a man is a demon, but sinks into oblivion before he can realize his mistake.
The cave with the gold is first discovered by Billy, who thinks it is haunted. Francis investigates the cave and finds an exposed skeleton alongside the gold.
When Francis kills a deer, he “paused, thanking fate and the spirits and the deer and then handed the knife from his possible kit to Lottie.” [pg. 22]
Lottie tells a story about a neighbor, remarking at the end, “Of course that was before she up and took with the ha’nts and could tell about things before they come to be.” [pg. 26]
Francis tells a lie to comfort Lottie, but she easily spots it.
Luck is credited.
‘Lord’ and ‘godforsaken’ are each used once.
Conclusion. An okay book. I get the idea that the books just before and just after this installment in the Mr. Tucket series would be much more exciting.
Note: This is a review of Tucket’s Gold, not the entire Mr. Tucket series.
Review © 2013 Laura Verret