A mix of titles currently on my shelves.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Heroes, Human and Canine

     The Iditarod is exciting and challenging, a world-class outdoor competition. No doubt about it. But what sets the Iditarod apart from other dog mushing races is its history. Every year, the race reminds us of the heroic 1925 endeavor that brought life-saving serum by dog team to an isolated Alaska community in the throes of a deadly diphtheria epidemic.

     The Great Serum Race: Blazing the Iditarod Trail by Debbie Miller, illustrated by Jon Van Zyle (who has also run the race and creates the official Iditarod posters every year), is a factual and moving account of that historic struggle. The tragedy unfolding as diphtheria breaks out in Nome is juxtaposed with the struggles of the mushers and their dogs to relay the vials of precious serum through raging blizzards and 40-below-zero temperatures. Accurate research combines with narrative storytelling that avoids romanticizing this inherently dramatic true tale. At 40 pages, The Great Serum Race reads well out loud with students between ages seven and ten, or on their own for ten-to-twelve-year-olds. A map shows the route traveled by the serum relay teams; notes at the back list all 20 mushers, the distances they covered, and the contributions of the dogs.

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