Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Balloon Boy of San Francisco

The Balloon Boy of San Francisco
by Dorothy Kupcha Leland, 2005

This is a nice piece of historical fiction. Ready Gates sells newspapers and oranges on the streets of San Francisco in 1853. He meets a sixteen year old named Lydia who has survived the shipwreck of the steamship Independence. She has arrived in SF to look for her brother who is seeking his fortune in the California gold fields. Ready helps her find a place to stay and employment. His own hopes of prospecting for gold himself are dashed when his father is injured. He works harder than ever to support his family and to help Lydia track down her brother.

Leland has done lots of research and successfully evokes the time period and place. Ready Gates was a real person and his balloon ride at the end of the book is documented in the papers of the time.

One aspect of the story that I was intrigued by was the hunger of the population for news. In our networked world, breaking news is a click away on television, radio or the Internet.
Ready is successful selling his newspapers because people want to know what is going on in the world and are willing to pay in $5 gold pieces to get it.

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