________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 8. . . October 27, 2017


Black Gold. (Orca Echoes).

Sara Cassidy. Illustrated by Helen Flook.
Victoria, BC: Orca, November, 2017.
86 pp., pbk., pdf & epub, $6.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-1422-6 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-1423-3 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-1424-0 (epub).

Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.

Review by Danielle Wing.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.


“It’s like this,” the man says. “I’ve got worms.”

Rudy and I shoot each other a look. We had worms a year ago. An awful-tasting tablespoon of medicine cleared them up. It was a few days before I realized we’d drunk worm poison.

“Wigglers,” the man says.

“They’re itchy,” Rudy says.

“Really itchy,” I add.

The man gives us a worried look. “I mean Eisenia fetida. The Californian earthworm? Red wigglers?”

Rudy and I don’t know what to say.

“Look,” the man continues. “I bought a pound of worms a month ago to help break down my compost pile. They eat up all the compost and then they excrete—”

“Excrete?” Rudy riffles through his thesaurus, “Oh.”

“—castings,” the man continues. “Fertilizer.”

“Worm poop,” Rudy says. “Manure.”

“Indeed. The problem is, my red wigglers are multiplying like crazy. I started with fifty and now I’ve got thousands. My compost pile is all worms. There’s no food left for them to eat. I’ve been thinking maybe you two could sell them. I don’t want the money you make. I just want the worms to find good homes.” The man opens his tailgate and slides a large plastic container off the back of his truck. “They’re yours. For free.”


In this follow-up to Not for Sale and Blackberry Juice, Cyrus and Rudy have overcome their initial discomfort with living in the country and are now embracing life on a farm. Set in Saanich, BC, this story follows Cyrus and Rudy as they enjoy the last few busy days of summer. While selling dahlias, blackberries and tomatoes at their roadside stand, they are offered a free batch of red wigglers (California earthworms), and they discover just how in demand compost worms are in the country. Worms aside, Rudy and Cyrus are busy: their friend Rachel’s grandmother has passed away, and they’ve been asked to attend the funeral. They also attend the agricultural fair, where they each enter various projects and vegetables into contests. Their adventures and experiences lead them to learn some very important life lessons, and, in just a few short days, they come to understand much more about honesty, friendship and grief.

     Like other books in the “Orca Echoes” series, Black Gold explores themes of character building and social responsibility. While the storyline is not rivetting, the messaging is clear, and the reader will enjoy following along as Cyrus and Rudy learn about life through their mistakes, fears and interests. Cyrus and Rudy encounter many challenges in this short chapter book: they learn about grief and loss, they experience the pull to tell a lie and the consequences that follow, and they demonstrate how to be a kind friend to others facing adversity. Cassidy’s writing style carefully captures the struggles and joys of her characters as they experience new things, make mistakes and face challenges. The illustrations that accompany the text add to the reading experience and will engage young readers. Children living in rural communities will be able to relate to this text while children in other living situations will enjoy reading about life on a farm. Black Gold will make a good addition to classroom libraries where the length of texts is of importance. Educators looking for texts to open discussions about character and social responsibility will find this and other books in the “Orca Echoes” series to be useful.


Danielle Wing is a Children’s Librarian in North Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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