________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 7 . . . . November 30, 2001

cover Gold Rush Fever: A Story of the Klondike, 1898.

Barbara Greenwood. Illustrated by Heather Collins.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2001.
160 pp., pkk. & cl., $15.95 (pbk.), $22.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55074-850-5 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55074-852-1 (cl.).

Subject Heading.
Klondike River Valley (Yukon)-Gold discoveries-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-7 / Ages 8-12.

Review by Gillian Richardson.

**** /4


March 23, 1899

My hand is shaking so much I can hardly write. Today, 15 feet down, we hit bedrock. Ned came up the ladder carrying a panful of gravel and we all went into the cabin to test it. My throat was too dry to swallow - and I sure couldn't bear to look at Roy. Even Ned was holding his breath as he swirled the pan in the tub of water. Roy and I just stared as the mud and gravel washed out of the pan. Finally a dull gleam. Ned gave a last swirl and a gold tail flared out of the black sand like fireworks in the night sky. A $10 pan! Ned's voice was all croaky as he said it. We've done it - we've struck it rich at last! The three of us danced around that pan of gold as if we were demented. Maybe we were. If so, it's a grand feeling.

Several works both of historical fiction and nonfiction for young readers based on the Klondike Gold Rush have appeared on bookstore shelves recently. Barbara Greenwood has chosen a fiction/fact combination in Gold Rush Fever that has proven successful for her in previous work and is equally suited here. While it presents an absorbing adventure story of a young character swept along on the Klondike stampede, this book is loaded with thoroughly researched facts, an added dimension that makes it a fascinating resource.


     The journal entries of 13-year-old Tim Olsen (a future reporter) are used to introduce six illustrated chapters that make up a fictional account of the trek with his brother Roy to the Klondike in 1897. The compelling narrative begins with the dramatic climb over treacherous Chilkoot Pass. The well-structured plot proceeds through the struggles of boat building, the tumultuous arrival in Dawson, hardships of summer and winter seasons on the diggings and the excitement of a gold strike. The characters are vivid and memorable. We cheer Tim's efforts to pack his faithful dog over the perilous trail, empathize with his feelings of inadequacy over his lack of boat building and mining skills, and rejoice at his determination to carry on in the face of all the challenges. At the end, Tim is the one who is sorry to be leaving. Roy presents strong conflict as his temper flares and his feelings of guilt add tension. Ned is a wise, older friend who helps Tim keep a positive outlook. There's even a romantic interest for Tim; young Flora with her own dreams for the future.

     Extending each chapter, information is presented in one-to-two page chunks in an easy-to-read style with plenty of specific details and statistics. They cover most questions that might arise in readers' minds as they share Tim's adventures: how the gold rush began; how law and order was maintained by the Northwest Mounted Police; who were some of the actual personalities involved; how to pan for gold and stake a claim. Of special note is the double-page list of a grubstake: it's one thing to state that a year's supply of food was required before the NWMP would allow passage to Dawson, but quite another to see the actual list of food and other items, and to imagine the monumental task of packing it all on one's back up a staircase of ice! To help readers understand this concept more clearly, an activity (one of several throughout the book) is suggested to simulate that struggle.

     The information sections are liberally illustrated with engaging sketches and labelled drawings by well-known artist Heather Collins, and actual archival photos. Greenwood's lengthy acknowledgements at the front attest to her thorough research of recent and historical publications. There is a detailed index and glossary, and a most reasonable price tag for this attractive book.

Highly Recommended

Gillian Richardson is a former teacher-librarian and a published children's writer of fiction and nonfiction, living in BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364