HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Down the Yukon
Author: Will Hobbs
Publisher: HarperCollins, Reprinted 2002
ISBN-13: 978-0688174729 Hardcover
ISBN-10: 0688174728 Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-038073309 Paperback
ISBN-10: 0380733099 Paperback
Language level: 3
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 8 – 12
Rating: ***** 5 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Hobbs, Will. Down the Yukon (Published in 2001 by HarperCollins Children’s Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, 1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York City, NY 10019).
It is 1899, and sixteen year old Jason Hawthorn lives in Dawson City, Yukon, Canada, with his two older brothers Abraham, 25, and Ethan, 23. The three own and operate a sawmill. An unscrupulous businessman named Cornelius Donner cheats the brothers out of their sawmill in a poker game, so Jason itches to join the new rush for gold in Nome, Alaska, 1,700 miles away. And when a $20,000 prize is announced for the winner of a race to Nome, Jason enters. Just then his girlfriend Jamie Dunavant returns to Dawson City and agrees to be his partner. Accompanied by Ethan’s affectionate mutt, Burnt Paw, Jason and Jamie aim to outpaddle over 300 entrants down the Yukon to get the money.
However, their main competition in the race is the ruthless Donner and his partner, and adventure gives way to survival when the sawmill swindlers sabotage Jason’s canoe. Who will win the prize? With the hazards of travel on the Yukon River, grizzly bears, and a kayak journey across open sea, do Jason and Jamie even make it to the finish line? And what will they do afterwards? Down the Yukon is a continuation of Jason’s Gold, in which Jason struggles through the hazards of the Canadian wilderness to join his brothers on the Yukon gold fields and first meets Jamie. There are references to gambling, drinking alcohol, and smoking cigars, some “polite profanity” (e.g., “My God” and “For God’s sake), and one reference to a suicide.
However, the book ties in some people from history, like Wyatt Earp, who was in Nome, AK, at the turn of the century, and even many of the fictional individuals resemble historical persons. Minor characters, such as Swedish immigrants, Eskimos, and a Russian priest, who befriend the heroes give a real flavor of Alaska in the late 1800s. An appended author’s note explains the historical basis for some of story’s personages and events, and provides a map. One reader-reviewer wrote, “This book has an interesting storyline and I wanted to love it but the author adds in too much historical detail so that the book reads like a fast paced, enjoyable book at times and a history textbook at others. Made it through about five chapters before giving up on it.” That is precisely why a lot of folks like historical fiction! Besides, if he stopped after chapter five, he missed the best part. The book is recommended for ages 8-12 but is well written enough to hold an adult’s interest.