Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Book Review: 'The Cruelest Miles' by Gay Salisbury & Laney Salisbury

✰✰✰✰ The harsh winters of Alaska are legendary, but in 1925 a deadly diphtheria epidemic raged through the land and created a crisis like none before. Earlier in the year, the town doctor had realized that his supply of diphtheria antitoxin had expired. Although he ordered more, it failed to arrive on the last ship before the town became icebound. In all his years practicing medicine in Nome, Dr. Welch rarely had call to use the medicine, so he wasn’t worried. Unfortunately soon children were suffering from symptoms of severe sore throats. At first it looked like tonsillitis, but the germs at work proved to be a lot more deadly and fast. With a blizzard rapidly approaching, the only chance to save the people of Nome depended on teams of sled dogs. Twenty mushers and their dogs, the most famous of which was Balto, participated in the 1925 Serum Run. This is the thrilling journey that inspired the Iditarod Sled Dog Race in Alaska.    

The Bottom Line: While this debut book by two cousins is sometimes repetitive, it is a quick, compelling read that keeps you hanging. With no roads, rails, flights, or boats available, this is a story of courage, survival, and adventure. It became a race against both time and the elements where the slightest miscalculation can cost you your life. Additionally, this book explores the bond between man and dog. Also, included in the book are many fascinating historical tidbits, black and white photos, and a map. Enthusiastically recommended for dog lovers, nonfiction aficionados, and history lovers.

Book Club Notes: This was a quick read for the group to tackle. While many of us were familiar with the story of Balto, it was interesting to learn about the other mushers and dogs involved in the serum run. The men pushed themselves and the dogs to their physical limits. Without hesitation, many sacrifices were made, not for glory, but simply to help fellow humans. It was also interesting to learn about life in Alaska including local folklore and native culture. It's all about survival and helping others in need. Overall, we gave this book an average of 4 stars. Most of us enjoyed the history and trivia included in the book. However, a few members disliked the trivia while others simply lost interest in the writing style. Groups considering this book can find a reading group guide at W. W. Norton & Company, Inc

Details: The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race Against an Epidemic by Gay Salisbury & Laney Salisbury. Paperback published by W. W. Norton & Company in 2003. 320 p. ISBN: 978-0-393-32570-6

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Book Review: 'Millhouse' by Natale Ghent

✰✰✰✰ Misfits know how difficult it can be to try to fit in. Millhouse, also known as Milly, is a gentle creature who loves the theatre. Once a beloved pet, Milly is put up for sale at a pet shop when his previous owner suddenly dies. Being the new animal in the shop isn’t easy. To make matters worse, Milly is hairless which makes him a target of the pet shop bullies. Life in a pet shop isn't easy, but Milly stays optimistic.

As the days and months go by, Milly makes a friend or two. He also makes an enemy in the form of the Pepper Brown ferret, who makes Milly’s life miserable. Despite many challenges, Milly never stops being his eccentric self. More than anything else he dreams of being adopted, but will anyone ever notice this quiet, sensitive creature? Only time will tell.

The Bottom Line: This charming tale about friendship and just being yourself will appeal to kids ages 7 – 11, who have guinea pigs as pets or who adore animals in general. This is a quick read that is perfect for reading aloud in a classroom setting. This chapter book is also a suitable choice for beginning readers. Finally, Millhouse includes sweet and nostalgic pen and ink style illustrations by the author.

Details: Millhouse by Natale Ghent. Hardcover published by Tundra Books in 2014. 192p. ISBN: 978-1-77049-639-2 NOTE: I received a free copy from Tundra Books in exchange for an honest review. This was made possible by the Early Reviewers program at LibraryThing.