Boom Town


Readability Age Range



Year Published

Book Review

This review was created by the editorial staff at Thriving Family magazine

This beginning reader by Sonia Levitin, with illustrations by Cat Bowman Smith, is published by Orchard Books and is written for kids ages 5 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Plot Summary

Amanda, her parents, three brothers and a baby sister arrive in California during the Gold Rush. Besides a few cabins like theirs, the small town consists of a stagecoach stop and a pump house. While Pa spends a week at a time in the gold fields, Amanda and her siblings grow bored. Amanda has a hankering for pie and asks Ma if she can make one. Ma agrees pie would be tasty, but she has no pie pans and only a wood stove.

Amanda decides to try anyway. After several unsuccessful attempts, she learns to create wonderful pies in the skillet. They’re so good, Pa starts taking them to the gold fields and selling them to the miners. Word of Amanda’s pies spreads, and soon they are in great demand. Her brothers build shelves for her and make a sign that reads “Amanda’s Fine Pies.” Her siblings help collect berries and apples.

A peddler comes to town and Amanda uses some of her earnings to buy pie pans. She suggests the peddler could open his own shop in town, and he takes her advice. More and more people come to town and see opportunities to start their own stores. Amanda convinces one cowboy to open a laundry and another to start a livery stable.

As families begin to move in, Amanda remembers a teacher named Miss Camilla she met on the stagecoach. She urges Miss Camilla and her new preacher husband to move to town. They start a church and school. Pa realizes there’s little money to be made in the gold fields. He asks Amanda if he can go into business with her. Soon, Pa takes over the pie business so Amanda can go to school. Amanda is excited to live in the center of an exciting, bustling boom town.

Christian Beliefs

A preacher moves into town and starts a church.

Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

Amanda’s parents support her pie-making efforts. Ma lets her try several ingredients before her pies turn out well. Pa eventually takes over her pie business so Amanda can go to school. Other adults passing through town take Amanda’s advice and open stores of their own.

Profanity & Violence


Sexual Content


Discussion Topics

If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:

  • Why does Amanda grow bored?
  • How does she overcome her boredom?
  • What are some creative things you can do when you’re bored?

  • If you moved into a small town as Amanda did, what kind of business would you want to open, or what kind of products would you like to make?

  • Why might people buy these products from you?

  • How does Amanda’s father try to earn money?

  • Why does he decide to work as a baker rather than continuing to mine for gold?
  • How might his decision help his family?

Additional Comments

A historical note taken from a California history book mentions a young woman who made $11,000 by baking pies in a skillet.

This review is brought to you by Focus on the Family, a donor-based ministry. Book reviews cover the content, themes and world-views of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book’s inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

You can request a review of a title you can’t find at [email protected].

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