Alice Provensen, . . S&S, $17.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-689-84885-8
In her new book, Provensen effectively puts a human face on the 1897 stampede into Yukon Territory after gold is discovered on the banks of the Klondike River, and bases her narrator on an actual miner. Bill Howell, a bored Boston shopkeeper, agrees to accompany his optimistic pal Joe on a search for gold in the Northwest. Bill's anecdotal narrative together with Provensen's finely detailed oil paintings (with a stylistic nod to old Western posters) traces the pair's journey. A long horizontal panel illustration at the bottom of a spread depicts the duo's train trip to Chicago; "from there [we] worked or bummed our way west on the freight trains bound for Seattle," where they board a ship to the Yukon Territory. Another such panel lists the "recommended 'outfit' for a gold seeker" (i.e., essential supplies). The account of what conditions were like for the adventurers (e.g., it took 23 days to lug two tons of supplies 13 miles), the food they ate, etc., will keep readers rapt. In a triumphant moment one spring morning, after months of traveling and finally staking a claim on a tributary of the Klondike River, the two wash the piles of "pay dirt" they had dug up and find "flakes and pebbles of pure gold." In this rich historical nugget, art and text convey the danger, thrill, exhilaration and heartbreak experienced by these persevering prospectors. Ages 5-10.
Reviewed on: 10/03/2005