- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Harcourt; 1st edition (March 1, 1994)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0151262276
- ISBN-13: 978-0151262274
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 345 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,181,037 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod Hardcover – March 1, 1994
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From Publishers Weekly
The scene was unnerving to a novice: television cameras, loudspeakers, crowds and nearly 2000 excited dogs all jammed a street in downtown Anchorage. It was the start of the Iditarod dogsled race from Anchorage to Nome over 1180 miles of rugged terrain. Paulsen ( Clabbered Dirt, Sweet Grass ) had run dogs in Minnesota, but was woefully unprepared in 1983 for his first Iditarod and for conditions in Alaska. After getting lost with his 15-dog team in Anchorage at the start, he and the dogs later took a wrong turn again, adding 120 miles to the journey. Attacked by a moose, suffering frostbite and sleeplessness, he nevertheless completed the race in 17 days and was eager to run another. Paulsen presents a fine depiction of the landscape and of dogs at work in this gripping story of adventure and endurance. Photos. First serial to Readers Digest; author tour.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
The Alaskan Iditarod is an annual 1180-mile dogsled race from Anchorage to Nome that generally takes two to three weeks to complete. Paulsen, a popular YA writer, ran the race in 1983 and 1985 and was again in training when a heart condition forced him to retire. This book is primarily an account of Paulsen's first Iditarod and its frequent life-threatening disasters, including wind so strong it blew his eyelids open and blinded his eyes with snow, cold so deep matches would not strike, and packages of lotions kept next to his skin that froze solid. However, the book is more than a tabulation of tribulations; it is a meditation on the extraordinary attraction this race holds for some men and women. In a style reminiscent of fellow nature writer Farley Mowat, Paulsen deftly examines careening on a precarious edge. Highly recommended for all libraries.
- John Maxymuk, Rutgers Univ. Lib., Camden, N.J.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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What also comes across though is the bond he forges with his dogs, especially Cookie, who seems to have a deep understand of Paulson, as well as what is expected of her as he trains; he describes her—and the bond he has with her—with great tenderness and devotion as they come to rely on each other during the course of the book.
Whether you love books about animals, books that make you laugh, books about the Iditarod... I would highly recommend this book. I've read a lot of books, and this is one of the best I've ever read.
It's a pretty quick read with funny anecdotes of events during the Iditarod, but it gives normal people a feeling for just how dedicated and hardy (fool hardy?) mushers are. This is a great book for teens and up.
If you've made it this far, please check the box that this review was helpful. Thanks!
In Winterdance, a book filled with humor, Paulsen takes us along with him and fifteen dogs to prove otherwise. The book is fast paced, a little unbelievable at times, and often funny. The scene of Paulsen trying to run dogs during training, without snow, by riding behind on a bicycle pulled by a dozen wild dogs, left me wondering how survived to arrive alive in Alaska. Paulsen later tied to the dogs to a car body, from where he sat as they pulled him across the barren ground. The dogs love to pull and in time, Paulsen found himself essentially living with the dogs as his life centered on carrying for the dogs. In training and in running the race, one primarily focuses on the dogs need. Food, feet care, medical needs and rest for the animals all come before the musher’s needs.
Paulsen openly makes fun of his amateur status as a dog musher. When he decided to run the Iditarod, the longest run he’d done with dogs was 150 miles running a trap line in Minnesota. When the race started in downtown Anchorage, he and his dogs took a wrong turn and ran through the crowds. This, however, was the “show start” as the dogs only run a few blocks before being trucked to the real start of the race (outside of the freeways that circle the city). The race involves stopping at a number of checkpoints, where food is cached and the dogs are checked. If anything, the focus is all on the dogs. With the exception of a few occasions, such as being caught in a storm and having to wait it out, you wonder if Paulsen ever slept during the race. At the checkpoints, he’d have to check each dog’s paws as well as cook dog food which was placed in a cooler on the sleds for the next run.
Two of Paulsen’s dogs stand out: Cookie and Devil. Cookie is the fun loving led dog, whose instinct saves the team on Norton Sound where the ice is breaking up. Devil, lives up to his name, as he is always trying to eat other dogs and even attacks Paulsen (they eventually reach an uneasy truce). But Devil can pull and that’s why Paulsen keeps him as a part of the team. (I wondered if dogs live up to their names…) Paulsen also speaks of the dogs of other mushers. Getting teams of dogs together in tight places can be a problem as there is always the possibility of a dog fight. And then there are the problems with the bitches going into heat, and the mushers who attempt to mask the dog’s scent by spreading Vicks vapor rub on her. The trick works until the male dogs learn to associate Vicks with sex, at which time the musher is in danger by opening the jar. The dogs appear to get into the excitement of the race and I come away with a sense that they enjoyed the challenge.
A race such as this brings out the best and the worst of people, sometimes from the same person. Paulsen tells of a musher who brought donuts to share with other mushers, but then in rage at his team, he kicked and killed a dog. This was a serious violation and as Paulsen and another musher witnessed and reported it, the man was banned for ever racing again.
Paulsen finished the race, even though at times he hallucinated from the lack of sleep. He vows to come back and win it. He did run the race twice, but heart problems kept him returning again and he never did win the race.
I read this book for a men’s book club of which I’m a member. I enjoyed it and would recommend it to those interested in dogs or the outdoors. Years ago, when my son was a teenager, we’d read together some other Paulsen books. Although this book wasn’t necessarily written for middle school students, it is an easy (and enjoyable) read.