Children’s Book of the Week: By the Great Horn Spoon!

By the Great Horn Spoon! by Sid Fleischman

I just realized I haven’t recommended this book here yet. I forgot that I hadn’t officially written it up, since I’ve recommended it to everyone I see walking down the street. This book is great. I am, frankly, shocked that I’d never heard of it before we read it (I read about it in Great Books for Boys), that it’s not more of a classic, and that it hasn’t been made into a movie.* Sure, it’s old-timey, but “Mary Poppins” is old timey too, and people like that movie. Plus, By the Great Horn Spoon! has it all: seafaring adventure, human interest, action, plot twists, and a butler punching a gold digger fifteen feet uphill (not as violent as it sounds, and maybe the funniest scene in the book).

The story is about Jack, an orphan who lives with his sisters and his aunt in Boston. He finds out that his aunt has lost all her money and will soon lose her house. Jack hatches a secret plan to escape to California and make the money in the gold rush, but his plan is discovered by Praiseworthy, the butler, who doesn’t miss anything. Praiseworthy and Jack sneak off to California together, stowing away on a ship that’s sailing around South America.

Almost every chapter presents some almost-impossible oh-how-will-they-escape-this-one situation, and Praiseworthy always comes to the rescue with clever poise (I love that he wears his butler garb the whole time). They make their way to California, and to the gold camps, and all ends quite happily. Of course a happy ending is great, but you will have had such a good time reading this book that you will be more bummed that the book is over than glad that it ends happily.

*Oh, look at that, apparently it is a movie, a Disney movie with Roddy MacDowell and Suzanne Pleshette of all things, called “The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin.”

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