A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Walk on Earth a Stranger, by Rae Carson (the Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy), is the first in the very promising Gold Seer trilogy. It stars Lee, a girl whose parents are murdered in Georgia by her uncle, who wants to exploit her "witchy" ability to find gold. She disguises herself as a boy to evade her uncle and heads west to California. Just about everything that can go wrong on a wagon train goes wrong: People die from cholera, come down with measles, die of heat exhaustion, die in childbirth, die getting crushed by a wagon, and need a leg amputated. Some of the deaths are quite sad. The leg-amputation scene and a childbirth scene are long and gory. In keeping with the time, plenty of men smoke pipes and cigars and some drink moonshine to drunkenness. The story tackles tough topics such as racism and gender inequality with sensitivity, owing mostly to the wonderful main character: Lee is a mix of tough exterior, to face life’s incredible hardships, and rich interior, pondering the unfairness of life.
What's the story?
When Lee's best friend Jefferson proposes marriage and a trip west to California, Lee balks. She has her parents on the Georgia farm to think about, and besides, the proposal seems kind of half-hearted. But when she gets home one day, she’s shocked to find both her parents dead and their stash of gold gone. She easily traces the crime to her Uncle Hiram; she has "witchy" powers she's kept hidden -- or so she thought -- that can find gold when it's close by, and Hiram has bits of gold dust all over him. She knows she must escape, but Jefferson is already gone and has promised to wait in Independence, Missouri, for her only until the wagons move out. In haste, she cuts her hair short and dons her father's old clothes. She moves fast on her horse until robbers find her. It’s only the first of many hardships ahead.
Is it any good?
Readers will root for sublime hero Lee as she disguises herself in men’s clothes and takes on each hardship in this hair-raising adventure. It's hard to imagine wanting to follow anyone west with a wagon, cholera, measles, heatstroke, stampeding buffalo, and trigger-happy leering men for company, but readers will want to follow Lee.
The hint of fantasy -- Lee's special, secret ability to sense gold nearby -- adds to the tension and opens up some possibilities for the rest of the series. The serious looks at racism and gender inequality add a poignancy to WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER and make it a great story to read and discuss with teens.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the time period in which Walk the Earth a Stranger is set. What did you learn about life in 1849?
What was difficult about being a woman in 1849? What do you think about Lee's decision to disguise herself? Besides protection from her uncle, what else did she gain from it?
Will you read Book 2? What do you think will happen to Lee?
- Author: Rae Carson
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Great Girl Role Models, History, Horses and Farm Animals
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Greenwillow Books
- Publication date: September 22, 2015
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 13 - 17
- Number of pages: 448
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: July 13, 2017
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