What would you do if you were a fourth grader who needed to research a California mission for a school project? If you were an average fourth grade student, you might get some information out of books and offf the internet about a mission and write an essay. If you were a good student, you might visit a mission or build a scale model of one. But if you were an exceptional fourth grader, you would visit all 21 California missions, take lots of pictures, and write a novel based on your first-hand experiences! And that's exactly what the author of this novel did!
In The Search for the Golden Mission, fourth grade author Torrey Mahall tells about Allison and her twin brother Mark, who are partners in the CDA, or Child Detective Agency. During spring break, they hear about a model of a California mission that is made out of solid gold. (The model is made of gold; the mission is made out of wood and adobe and stuff.) Being detectives, they decide to set out to discover the location of the golden mission.
Along the way, they are helped by a wingless fairy named Mishie who happens to be an expert in all things mission-y. Together, the trio travel up and down California's coast looking for clues to help them find the gold model. They don't find many clues, but they find lots of interesting facts about all the missions.
This was a really easy book to read. As a grown-up, there were times I was thinking to myself that the writing was a little simple and not very compelling. Then I stopped and reminded myself, "This novel was written by a girl in fourth grade!" I know some adults that don't write this well! Plus, the students at my school loved listening to it (and later, reading it themselves).
I highly recommend this book to anyone in fourth through sixth grades. It's easy to follow and is full of true facts. This might be a good place to start if you have to do a project on the missions, but don't use it as a source; it is fiction, after all. But it can give you a taste of all the missions in an interesting and imaginative way.
If you want to find out more about the author, visit her website. The students at my school were fortunate enough to have her visit when she was in sixth grade. You can read about that in this article.