This book is based on the true story of a newsboy living in California during the Gold Rush who wound up taking an unexpected solo flight in a hot-air balloon.
The year is 1853, and the Gates family has traveled from Philadelphia to San Francisco to find their fortune. Mrs. Gates and the younger boys are to stay in the city, while 14-year-old Joseph (nicknamed "Ready" for his red hair and enthusiastic attitude) sets off with his father to pan for gold in the mountains. But then Ready's father has an accident, and their adventure is postponed. Bitterly disappointed at first, Ready learns that there is a lot of excitement to be found in San Francisco.
With its colorful details, this book brings Gold Rush history to life, touching on dangers such as sinking ships, burning buildings and kidnappings, and lively characters such as stowaway newsboys, questionable fortune-tellers, traveling picture-takers and, of course, all kinds of gold-seekers.