I’m kinda obsessed with the Klondike Gold Rush. If I were heartier and braver (and had no problem with sub-freezing temperatures), I’d love to travel back to 1897 and see the frenzy that unfolded in Canada’s Yukon Territory firsthand.
Did you learn about the Klondike Gold Rush in school? I certainly didn’t, unless you count the day we spent reading Jack London’s memorable short story, “To Build a Fire.” That was my only taste of this historic event that (unbeknownst to me) fascinated the entire world.
If I could, I’d like to spy on Jefferson “Soapy” Smith, a con-man in Skagway, Alaska, who swindled, tricked, and robbed would-be miners (called Stampeders) as they were passing through. I’d love to see the never-ending chain of people climbing over the Chilkoot Pass’s Golden Stairs — steps carved into ice that men, women, and even children trudged up for days and weeks and months, until they’d finally carried their ton of supplies safely into Canada.
What would it be like to wander the muddy streets of Dawson City -- the community that sprang up at the mouth of the Yukon and Klondike rivers after gold was discovered --where the knighted and the nameless were suddenly on equal footing? Wouldn’t it be fun to catch a glimpse of Skookum Jim and George Carmack with their gold nugget belt buckles the size of supper plates? What would it feel like to endure darkest winter in a tiny claim shanty?
Of the 100,000 Stampeders who set out for the Klondike, thirty to forty thousand reached Dawson City. About twenty thousand of those who made it to Dawson tried looking for gold. Four thousand found it. A few hundred got enough to be considered rich. But only a handful were able to hold onto their wealth.
All that hardship with so little return. Can you think of anything more daring or exasperating?
I hope my newest book, Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine, set smack dab in the middle of the Klondike Gold Rush, gives young readers a taste of this weird, wild, wonderful bit of history — from the coziness of their well-insulated, modern-day homes, of course!
Praise for Jasper:
Jasper narrates in the present tense, his homespun voice evoking both emotion and adventure. Villains and allies provide colorful melodrama, but it's the brothers' struggle to survive the Yukon wilderness with its harsh beauty and unforgiving cold that will keep readers entranced.
Jasper’s voice and Caroline Starr Rose’s writing style brought her characters alive, bursting with warmth and spirit. The rich details and historically accurate setting took me back to the era of the Gold Rush.
-- Terry Lynn Johnson, author of Ice Dogs and Falcon Wild
Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine takes two brothers and plunks them right into a hair-raising journey to the goldfields of Canada. It’s a rollicking adventure, warm and funny, chockablock with bad guys and good guys, mysteries and deceptions, dangers and disasters. With courage and persistence, Melvin and the delightful Jasper discover the true meaning of riches, friendship, and family. It’s a rip-roaring tale and a romping good read. Try to resist!
— Newbery Award-winning author, Karen Cushman
The dreams and dangers of the 1897 Klondike gold rush fuel Rose’s first novel in prose, and it’s a rousing historical adventure…Rose’s carefully plotted clues, along with colorful supporting characters and narrow escapes, keep the pace brisk until Jasper finds Riley’s mine in a suspenseful climax. Complementing a narrative rich in details about life on the frontier, the author’s note provides more intriguing facts, including profiles of characters in the book who were true historical figures. VERDICT Highly recommended for fans of adventure and historical fiction, or as a classroom read-aloud. — School Library Journal
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