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Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
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The Balloon Boy of San Francisco by Dorothy Kupcha Leland
Bandits of the Trace by Albert E. Cowdrey
The Book That Eats People by John Perry and Mark Fearing
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Guy Time by Sarah Weeks
Immaculate Deception by Courtney J. Webb
Is There a Monster Over There? by Sally O Lee
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Letters to Rosy by C. Ellene Bartlett
The Man Who Lost His Head by Claire Huchet Bishop
Mummies in the Morning (Magic Tree House #3) by Mary Pope Osborne
My One Hundred Adventures by Polly Horvath
Out of Time by John Marsden
Promotion Denied by Joseph W. Hoffler
Scary Party by Sue Hendra
Scat by Carl Hiaasen
The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook by Eleanor Davis
Shadows on the Walls of the Cave by Kate Wilhelm
Shriek: An Afterword by Jeff VanderMeer
Swim to Me by Betsy Carter
Tigers at Twilight (Magic Tree House #19) by Mary Pope Osborne
The Travesties by Giselle Renarde
War, Women and the News by Catherine Gourley
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The Balloon Boy of San Francisco: 04/14/10

In October 2009 we had the "Balloon Boy" hoax. Back in 1853 Oakland California had it's very own real life balloon boy, Joseph “Ready” Gates, a sixteen year old San Francisco produce merchant. Shortly after the October hoax, I saw The Balloon Boy of San Francisco by Dorothy Kupcha Leland on prominent display in the children's room at my library. As you can imagine I had to check it out.

Although my decision to read the book was based on current events I would have enjoyed the book without that motivation. It's a fascinating and well written glimpse at life in San Francisco when the gold rush was going strong.

The balloon incident while the climax of the book is not the main focus. Randy spends most of the book helping a woman locate her brother. She has arrived in San Francisco on a ship and is dismayed when her brother isn't at the docks to meet her. Randy and his family help her adjust to life in the city and Randy goes the extra step to use his connections to track down leads on her brother's whereabouts.

The balloon ride then comes as a dramatic climax and pause in the mystery of the missing brother. There's a map included that shows the path of the balloon as it leaves Oakland and flies up and over the Oakland hills, over Mt Diablo, towards Martinez over where the Benicia bridge now stands, up to a piece of land just north of Grizzly Bay.

For me the big treat was reading the descriptions of all the East Bay landmarks I am so intimately familiar with. So often when a novel is set in San Francisco, everything else around The City is forgotten or ignored. It was refreshing to see Joseph living San Francisco in the context of the other cities and towns.

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