Kirkus Book Review
WRITTEN AND ILLUSTRATED BY MARY KAYE GODDE STAMETS
In this children’s book, the American frontier is seen through the eyes of a California family.
In 1885, Frederick Godde arrived in New York City from his home in rural Germany eager for a fresh start in a new country. The 22-year-old arrived in the U.S. the same year as the Statue of Liberty and left behind 14 generations in the North Rhine-Westfalia region. Godde then boarded a train to Los Angeles, where his three brothers were already located, all eager to make their marks. At first, Godde worked at a winery in Hollywood, learning English and meeting farmers, hoping one day to start a farm of his own, like his ancestors did before him. The Mojave Desert presented an opportunity in the form of government-funded land for homesteading, which allowed individuals to own up to 160 acres as long as they improved the land and lived there for at least five years. Conditions were extremely challenging, and Godde not only survived, he thrived. He married Swiss immigrant Mary Weber, and the couple raised nine children—five girls and four boys—on the homestead. In 1897, Godde finally found the perfect crop for the desert: almonds. He joined the California Almond Growers Exchange, which, in 1910, began the Blue Diamond almond brand, which can still be found in stores today. Stamets is the daughter of Godde’s youngest son, nicknamed “The Caboose” by his family, who lived on the homestead his entire life. She includes fun facts about homesteading (including a unique method for dyeing Easter eggs and the Godde family’s method for getting their chickens to sleep) as well as photos of the real Frederick Godde and his family and her own digital illustrations. The result is a strong homage to family. This vibrant, appealing history, with a Little House on the Prairie–esque feel, is full of good, clean fun on a (literal) shoestring and detailed information on the Homestead Act, almond growing, and desert life.
An enjoyable, well-researched nonfiction work for young readers.