A mix of titles currently on my shelves.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Iditarod Tales

     When the Iditarod sled dog race starts* in your hometown, it’s a big, barking deal.

     Last Sunday hundreds (maybe thousands) of well-wishers lined the trail, waving to and encouraging the mushers, who were just beginning their 1,000-plus mile journeys to Nome. My friends and I skied to a nearby lake to join the festivities beneath a bright blue sky, with even more light reflecting off the expanse of snow all around us. Dozens of dogs trotted by, belonging to more than 60 teams. Their feet, swathed in colorful booties to protect their foot pads, bobbed up and down rhythmically like staccato notes against the white.

Iditarod Sled Dog Race, 2011
      I’d been reading books about dog mushing and the Iditarod aloud to students all week and rediscovered several favorites in the process. First is Kiana's Iditarod, a down-home, on-the-trail picture book story about what it’s like to run this wild race. Written by Shelley Gill, an Alaskan who was only the fifth woman to complete the Iditarod, and illustrated by Shannon Cartwright, an artist who lives off-road in the Talkeetna Mountains, this oldie-goldie manages to convey information as well as excitement about the hazards and the competition along the trail. Although written in verse that is serviceable, but not always perfect, that flaw is forgivable in exchange for its authenticity, inviting illustrations, and dog’s-eye-view of the race. The colorful art is visually interesting and nearly capable of telling a story on its own. At 64 pages, Kiana's Iditarod is longer than the usual picture book for reading out loud, but the story moves quickly as lead dog Kiana races with her team. A map of the route, general note about the race, and glossary of dog mushing terms provide clear-cut, helpful information. For ages 4-8.

More to follow soon...

*The official start is in Anchorage. That is a ceremonial start. The "restart" -- when mushers and teams actually begin the journey by dog sled to Nome -- takes place in Willow.

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