Jack London and the Klondike Gold Rush by Peter Lourie

Jack London and the Klondike Gold Rush by Peter Lourie. March 28, 2017. Henry Holt & Co., 208 p. ISBN: 9780805097573.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.9; Lexile: 1120.

Here is a compelling middle grade nonfiction tale of how one classic writer drew upon a rugged life of adventure to create works of literature, punctuated by stunning black-and-white art by Wendell Minor and illustrative photographic material.

Swept up in the Gold Rush of 1897, young Jack London headed north to strike it rich in the Klondike and discovered something more precious than gold–the seeds of the stories that would flower into his classic novels The Call of the Wild and White Fang, and timeless short stories such as To Build A Fire. This gripping tale follows London as he treks up the ruthless Chilkoot Trail, braves the lethal Whitehorse Rapids, survives a bad case of scurvy, and conquers many more dangers of the Yukon during his quest for gold.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence; Suicide; Inhumane treatment of animals

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (November 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 6))
Grades 4-8. Living in an economically depressed America in 1897, 21-year-old Jack London would become one of hundreds of thousands of stampeders who would try—and fail—to find gold in Canada’s Yukon Territory. In visceral descriptions, Lourie recounts the treacherous, backbreaking 500-mile trek up mountains and down rivers, on which London and his fellow cheechakos (a Native term for newcomers who were ignorant of the terrain and culture) risked their lives to reach the gold rush town of Dawson before winter. Once settled, London met more challenges in constant subfreezing temperatures as miners’ tempers flared, death took many forms, and hard work was met with disappointment. Yet Lourie tells how the budding writer countered the bleakness with observations of the Arctic land, animals, and people. Although London returned home one year later with only gold dust, Lourie explains how London’s real wealth was found in the characters and events that inspired White Fang, The Call of the Wild, and dozens of other books and short stories, making him the first author of the twentieth century to earn a million dollars from writing. Minor lends atmospheric sketches, but the numerous archival photos add a greater perspective of the time. Copious back matter, including information on First Nations of the area, provides more facts about London’s journey. Rich in details for social studies and language arts.
Publishers Weekly (January 9, 2017)
Lourie (The Polar Bear Scientists) delivers a vivid account of Jack London’s arduous trek, along with thousands of other Stampeders, to the heart of Canada’s Yukon Territory in 1897 in search of gold. London returned not with wealth but with the raw material for his best-known writings, which earned him both fortune and fame. Lourie intersperses his narrative with background on London’s boyhood, personality, and literary aspirations, and he quotes amply from the work of London and his contemporaries to convey the backbreaking rigors, awe-inspiring landscape, grime, isolation, dangers, and friendships of the journey. London’s mental and physical strength, sociability, and optimism seem at times almost superhuman: that winter, until felled by scurvy, he spent four hours a day collecting the wood needed to burn a fire to thaw eight inches of ground to dig for gold on his claim. Lourie’s captivating tale of the grueling experiences behind London’s crystalline prose testifies to his endurance. Minor’s windswept spot illustrations augment archival and modern photos and other supplemental material. Ages 8-12. Author’s agent: Susan Ramer, Don Congdon Associates.

About the Author

Peter Lourie was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and grew up in New England, Ontario, Canada, and New York City. He holds a BA in classics from New York University, an MA in English Literature from the University of Maine, and an MFA in nonfiction creative writing from Columbia University. He has taught writing for many years (Middlebury College, Columbia College, University of Vermont), and now makes his living traveling, writing and photographing. He also visits schools to share his adventures with students and teachers. He lives in Vermont where he is now working on an ongoing NSF-funded digital story-telling project about the Arctic, Arcticstories.net. He has been traveling on a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker in the Beaufort Sea where he is recording multimedia stories for a National Science Foundation project. His new book for Henry Holt about Jack London and the Klondike Gold Rush will be published in March, 2017. And he is just beginning to work on a biography of a Norwegian polar explorer.

His website is peterlourie.com.

Teacher Resources

Jack London Lesson Ideas

Klondike Gold Rush Lesson Plans from the National Park Service

Around the Web

Jack London and the Klondike Gold Rush on Amazon

Jack London and the Klondike Gold Rush on Goodreads

Jack London and the Klondike Gold Rush on JLG

Jack London and the Klondike Gold Rush Publisher Page

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