Rose, Caroline Starr. Jasper and the Riddle of Riley's Mine
February 7th 2017 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young
Copy provided by publisher
Jasper and his brother Melvin are living with their father, who has become increasingly cruel after their mother left. Mel decides to go to the Klondike after reading in the newspaper about the gold being found. Jasper decides he won't be left behind, so steals his father's gold pocket watch and stows away on a boat heading north. He manages to find Melvin in Skagway, butthe boys manage to run into every problem imaginable on their journey. Their gear and money are stolen before they even set out, and they run afoul of some bad men. They are eventually allowed to join a team run by a know-it-all named Theroux, but they can see through the man's bluster. After one of Theroux's hare brained schemes endangers the crew, the boys decide to set out by themselves. Without proper gear or rations, they are in very bad shape. Nuns come to their aid, and while it would be a much better idea to turn back, the boys are obsessed by the idea of Riley's Mine, a profitable mine that has been abandoned. They have collected a number of clues and are determined to find the mine, so set out yet again. This time, when Mel is gravely injured, they are saved by a prospector named Spare-Rib, who helps them with the clues. Life in the Klondike is rough. Will the boys manage to survive and prosper?
Strengths: Wow. This was very different from Rose's other titles! This is the sort of historical fiction that I can sell to my students-- action packed, suspenseful, and exciting! Every time the boys ran into a new problem, I was surprised that they managed to survive, but the circumstances were depicted in a convincing way. I especially loved the twist involving the mystery. And the nuns. The nuns were great. Since I'd just read a book (below) about the Klondike, I could tell that this was well-researched, and was impressed at the number of historical connection that Rose managed to work into the book. Excellent job.
Weaknesses: The cover is a bit too happy, and why does Jasper have his sleeves rolled up while running through the snow? In the text, he has a jacket, although mittens don't seem to have been a thing in the 1800s. Points on the cover for the washboard and broken glasses, though. It's a pretty cover, and I like it a lot, but my boys would probably be more drawn to something... darker.
What I really think: This is an excellent adventure book, and the fact that it can be paired with the great upcoming title by Peter Lourie, Jack London and the Klondike Gold Rush , makes me very excited to have it in my library.