Mining for gold in 1890s Cripple Creek, CO, is dangerous, yet it’s the way of life for the frontier families who call it home. When 10-year-old Mary McHugh’s father loses his leg in a mining accident, their peaceful existence is destroyed. The once-jovial man becomes sullen and depressed when he can no longer support his family, and Mary’s mother grapples with trying to make ends meet while keeping her subservient role in the household. Mary’s dad has always carved wooden “Reminders” of the family and their special times, and these carvings bring both pain and comfort to the child. The story alternates between the present and past as Mary remembers happier times. She tries desperately to remind her family members of them as she schemes for a way for her father to support them again. Shelley’s India ink and pen illustrations add to the historical feel of this gentle, yet gripping story. This is a heartwarming novel about overcoming hardship, but it may need to be booktalked or read to children, who may not discover this little gem on their own.
—School Library Journal