Best 1963 Adventures (9)
September 18, 2018
One in a series of 10 posts identifying Josh Glenn’s favorite 1963 adventure novels. Happy 55th anniversary!
Sid Fleischman’s YA historical adventure By the Great Horn Spoon!.
Yet another terrific kids’ adventure spoiled by teachers who forced students to read it because it’s “educational.” Twelve-year-old Jack runs away from Boston, during the California Gold Rush of 1848–55, to seek his fortune in the west; his family’s English butler, Praiseworthy, tags along. They stow away on a steamship, during which they encounter the novel’s villain, Cut-Eye Higgins, and manage to foil one of his schemes. Unfortunately, Higgins escapes with another passenger’s map leading to a rich gold mine. In San Francisco, the greenhorns are befriended by colorful miners with monikers like Quartz Jackson and Pitch-pine Bill; equipped with mining gear, they head out to the diggings. No matter where they find themselves, Jack and Praiseworthy distinguish themselves by their keen analytic minds, hard work, and honesty; Praiseworthy also becomes known as something of a tough guy, who is renamed “Bullwhip” by their miner friends. Like all of Fleischman’s terrific picaresques from around this time — Mr. Mysterious & Company (1962), Chancy and the Grand Rascal (1966), Jingo Django (1971) — the characters are vividly dimensionalized, the language is terrific, and the historical contexts are brought to life in amusing — not educational, ugh — detail. In the end, will Jack and Bullwhip make their fortunes and return to staid, stuffy Boston? No!
Fun facts: Adapted as a 1967 Western comedy film, The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin, by James Neilson. Roddy McDowall plays the titular character.
JOSH GLENN’S *BEST ADVENTURES* LISTS: BEST 250 ADVENTURES OF THE 20TH CENTURY | 100 BEST OUGHTS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST RADIUM AGE (PROTO-)SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TEENS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TWENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST THIRTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST GOLDEN AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FORTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FIFTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SIXTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST NEW WAVE SCI FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SEVENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST EIGHTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST DIAMOND AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST NINETIES ADVENTURES (in progress) | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | NOTES ON 21st-CENTURY ADVENTURES.