Author Alison Hart specializes in writing historical fiction for young people, and her skills at this genre are evident in her newest book, Murphy, Gold Rush Dog, the second in a recent series, Dog Chronicles, which features heartwarming stories of heroic dogs from different historical periods.
Set in 1900, this early chapter book is told in the first person by our canine hero, Murphy, a sled dog on the Alaskan frontier who's headed to Nome--and the Alaska gold rush--with his cruel master. He manages to free himself and sets off wandering through the town dreaming of "a home filled with kind words--and maybe even bacon." Could any dog want more than that? Murphy has the good fortune to be taken in by a young girl named Sally and her mother, who've come from Seattle to make a new life on the frontier--not as gold miners, but with a typewriter, which Sally's mother plans to use to type letters and documents for the miners.
When the hardships of Alaska's frontier get too much for Sally's mother, she plans to book passage back to Seattle for the two of them. But Sally is determined to find gold despite her mother's caution that almost no one winds up rich in the gold fields. Sally decides--without her mother knowing, of course--to set off on her own to stake a claim and raise enough money that they can buy a cabin and stay over the winter in Nome. She takes Murphy with her, but can Murphy keep Sally and himself safe, with threats from wolves, grizzly bears, and harsh storms in the Alaska wilderness? As one would expect given the young audience this book is aimed at, there is a happy ending for all in store.
The book is abundantly illustrated by Michael G. Montgomery, whose pencil sketches evoke the hardships of the Alaskan frontier. Some examples of the artwork follow:
This book does an effective job portraying the realities of the gold rush in Alaska, particularly how the young reader sees that very few people actually got rich through finding large gold nuggets. Hart peppers the text with plenty of evocative details of mosquitoes, saloons, dance halls, and n'er-do-wells of the frontier, as well as including some Native American characters who play a minor role in the narrative. Back matter includes additional historical background about dogs in Alaska, the Nome gold rush, a brief bibliography, and suggestions for further reading. I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy historical books such as the American Girl series or the Dear America books or to those who favor books about animals.
For more on Murphy, Gold Rush Dog, check out these other blog tour stops:
- Monday,10/20- Picture Books to YA
- Wednesday, 10/22- Chat with Vera
- Friday, 10/24- Sally's Bookshelf
If you would like to win a copy of this book, please leave a comment below with your e-mail address!