THE TRUE STORY OF TRAPPER JACK'S LEFT BIG TOE

Ian Wallace, Author, Ian Wallace, Illustrator . Roaring Brook/Porter $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7613-1493-6

A wry and absorbing initiation story set in Canada's wild north, Wallace's (Boy of the Deeps) retelling of a famous Yukon legend doesn't shrink from straight talk about frostbite. When Josh moves to the snowy town of Dawson, his new friend Gabe tells him that a local trapper's amputated toe, lost to the cold, sits in a tobacco tin in the Sourdough Saloon. The boys spend the first part of the story figuring out how to get a look at the grisly object. They then beard the trapper himself, who tells them about the day he and his sled dogs fell through the ice ("Two o' my dogs 'n one o' my toes din't make it home"). After the pair assures the man that they're "bellies aren't soft and yellow," he invites them to the saloon. Until the last moment, it looks as if the tale might be a tall one, but the relic does indeed reside in the tobacco tin, and the boys actually see it before it's nabbed by a dog. A graphic description and accompanying drawing may catch readers off-guard here. Back at his cabin, Trapper Joe turns out to be a rewarding companion despite his gruff exterior, and the boys, their rite of passage over, can laugh about it with him. Wallace's realistic colored-pencil spreads, done on heavily textured paper, have a bleached-out quality that simultaneously conveys the crisp white light of the northern winter and dilutes the impact of the images—for the soft- and yellow-bellied, that may be a good idea. Ages 6-10. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/18/2002
Release date: 04/01/2002
Genre: Children's
Hardcover - 32 pages - 978-0-7613-2405-8
Hardcover - 32 pages - 978-0-88899-415-8
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