From School Library Journal
Grade 3-6–Provensen relays the riveting story of a bored dry-goods employee who drops everything and heads for the Yukon Territory when struck by gold fever at the turn of the 19th century. He and a friend cross the country, outfit themselves in Seattle, and continue the trek north on water, over mountains, and through seasons to the Klondike River. Each spread is divided horizontally into thirds; a band of the text is sandwiched between the primary scenes on the top and a lower border of related information and images. The Caldecott-award winner's oils are reminiscent of, but more rugged than, her illustrations with her late husband Martin for Nancy Willard's A Visit to William Blake's Inn
(Harcourt, 1981). The cities are populated with teeming crowds and puffing factories in contrast to the lonely camps in the stark wilderness, although the beauty of those outposts is revealed as in the scene displaying the Northern Lights. Readers will be fascinated by the one-year supply list (800 lbs of flour, 200 lbs of beans) and the stairs of ice carved in the steep slopes; saddened by the animals that had to be abandoned on the arduous ascent; and intrigued by the travelers' ingenuity. The prospectors' drive–and disappointment (when half of the fortune sinks in a thawing river on the return home)--is palpable. This first-rate adventure mingles suspense, history, and detailed depictions of mining in a story that is sure to be a hit in the classroom and under the covers.–Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library
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Gr. 2-4. Provensen's newest picture book highlights a gold rush that may be less familiar to American children than its California counterpart. Supplementing a fictionalized first-person narrative with horizontal sidebars containing additional facts and artwork, the author focuses on restless shopkeeper-turned-prospector Bill Howell, who an introduction suggests was a historical figure. In both text and pictures, Provensen excels at highlighting engaging details about Howell's journey, particularly the arduous logistics of transporting a year's worth of supplies into the remote Yukon Territories. At times, though, key background information seems lost in the currents of Howell's immediate experiences, and some readers may feel that Provensen's characteristic folk-art-style paintings, though bustling with energy, don't sufficiently zero in on her protagonist. Still, the subject ties in well with several social studies thematic strands, and the large-format design invites children into the chilly landscapes and rowdy encampments to share in the buoyant (if often short-lived) optimism of those who struck out for Yukon gold. Jennifer MattsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved