The Alaskan Klondike Gold Rush of 1896-1899 was the last of the great western gold rushes beginning with the California gold Rush of 1848. "Klondike. Jason paused to savor the word. 'Klondike,' he said aloud. The name had a magical ring to it, spellbinding power. The word itself was heavy and solid and dazzling, like a bar of shiny gold." With remote and exotic Alaska Territory as the setting, the call of the wild, rags to riches, and place names like Chilkoot Pass, El Dorado Creek, and White Horse Pass, what reader or city boy could resist escaping or participating in such an adventure?
Fifteen-year-old Jason Hawthorn can't and leaves New York City for his brothers in Seattle. Too late, they've already left for the Klondike. The challenging goal of everyone is to get to the interior Dawson City--there is no road or highway. Alaska is NOT the land of milk and honey. Klondikers must suffer a gauntlet of obstacles include having to haul your food and supplies, survive the treacherous Yukon River, and don't delay to have to hole up for the winter.
The author has populated this engrossing YA novel with a collection of real and imagined characters from a Canadian poet and his vivacious daughter to a twenty-one year old San Franciscan named Jack London. Because Jason rescues a husky dog he names King, his not sharing his ordeals alone help him from quitting and joining the throng who turn back. Is a poke of gold nuggets or a golden fleece worth his exhaustion and injuries from a moose attack? Will he ever find his brothers? Will he ever reach the golden city to stake a claim and strike it rich?
Readers discovering this author can look forward to numerous hours of vicarious escape, insight into human nature, and even gain some historical knowledge. The sequel, Down the Yukon(2001), continues Jason's odyssey. Still want more of the Northwest? Join another fifteen year old, Texan Gabe Rogers, with the author's earlier, Spur Award winning Far North (1996)--some day I've got to get to Yellowknife, Canada on the Great Slave Lake.
Who can forget Jack London's Buck, White Fang or his short stories like "Love Of Life", All Gold Canyon", "To Build A Fire" or Robert Service's "The Shooting Of Dan McGrew"? Any compiled "Klondike" bibliography might include: Richard Parry's The Winter Wolf: Wyatt Earp In Alaska(1998) and the sequel, Wolf's Cub (1999), Michener's Journey (1989), and the older The Spoilers (1906) by Rex Beach, The Yukon Trail (1917) by William Macleod Raine, and perhaps even some James Oliver Curwood novels. For a true and accurate picture of the Klondike, tak a look at Laura Berton's 1955 I Married The Klondike, her son Pierre Berton's 1958 bestseller,Klondike Fever, and his later The Klondike Quest: A Photographic Essay/1897-1899.
There's a land where the mountains are nameless,
And the rivers all run God knows where;
There are lives that are erring and aimless,
And deaths that just hang by a hair;
There are hardships that nobody reckons;
There are valleys unpeopled and still;
There's a land--oh, it beckons and beckons,
And I want to go back--and I will.
The Spell Of The Yukon
by Robert W. Service
216 pages. Recommended by Robert L. Hicks, high school librarian. Arkansas