One of the best feelings to have as someone who tries to reach all readers is finding a book that you know is going to get a reader excited. A book that will be passed from reader to reader. A book that will reach even those who would rather do anything else but read.
Sometimes those are books that will touch a reader's heart. Sometimes those are books that will make a reader laugh out loud. Sometimes it happens to be the right book at the right moment.
Sometimes, those books are packed with adventure. The action is non-stop. Those books take you on a roller-coaster of a ride with the characters. It seems like nothing will ever go right until it usually does. You can't stop reading at the end of a chapter because surely you'll find out what happens in the next chapter.
I've got a new book that fits that description.
Jasper and the Riddle of Riley's Mine
by Caroline Starr Rose
published by G.P. Putnam's Sons
We get to travel with Jasper and Mel, two brothers from the state of Washington, who are about to journey with nothing more than a washboard, sled and piece of canvas up to the Canadian Klondike in search of gold. Jasper and Mel have only each other to rely on, but with determination and desire to start a new life from their broken home, they fight every obstacle head on.
Hoping to strike it rich, two brothers escape an abusive father and set out on a treacherous journey to Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush.
Desperate to get away from their drunkard of a father, eleven-year-old Jasper and his older brother Melvin often talk of running away, of heading north to Alaska to chase riches beyond their wildest dreams. The Klondike Gold Rush is calling, and Melvin has finally decided the time to go is now--even if that means leaving Jasper behind. But Jasper has other plans, and follows his brother aboard a steamer as a stowaway.
Onboard the ship, Jasper overhears a rumor about One-Eyed Riley, an old coot who's long since gone, but is said to have left clues to the location of his stake, which still has plenty of gold left. The first person to unravel the clues and find the mine can stake the claim and become filthy rich. Jasper is quick to catch gold fever and knows he and Melvin can find the mine--all they have to do is survive the rough Alaskan terrain, along with the steep competition from the unscrupulous and dangerous people they encounter along the way.
In an endearing, funny, pitch-perfect middle grade voice, Caroline Starr Rose tells another stellar historical adventure young readers will long remember.
My quick thoughts:
I'm so thrilled to have this book in my arsenal of books to recommend to readers. Some will gobble it up quickly, but those who haven't fallen in love with reading, will end up falling into this story. Hand this book to readers of Hatchet, Masterminds, Some Kind of Courage or Watt Key enthusiasts.
Speaking of reluctant readers, Caroline Starr Rose dropped by to share her thoughts!
I can’t claim to have been the world’s most knowledgeable teacher, but looking back on my classroom years there are many things that still make me proud. Number one on the list is encouraging in my students a love of reading. My philosophy was a simple one: Whether students were natural-born readers with sky-high interest or kids who only picked up books when they had to, I believed all readers would benefit from exposure to new titles, the ability to choose what they read, and oodles of enthusiasm from their teacher.
I wasn’t familiar with the term “Book Talk” back in the day, but I’d start each of my middle school classes with exactly that. Working off an alphabetical list of our classroom library — the books I’d grown up with and ones I’d acquired along the way — I’d pull the next title from the shelf and spend a few moments talking it up to my kids. After a few weeks of this, a couple of things started to happen. A handful of students would announce, “You sure like a lot of books!” In the very least, they were taking notice. I wasn’t only telling my students reading was important, I was showing them my own love of story. Even better than just noticing, some kids would raise a hand and ask to check books out.
The seeds I’d planted were beginning to sprout.
In sharing the stories I loved, I slowly earned my students’ trust, reader and non-reader alike. Soon I wasn’t the only one recommending books. On Fridays, after our spelling test, we’d spend the rest of class reading together — me included. Oftentimes my reads would be books students had brought in for me to borrow. Just as I’d keep an eye out for books to recommend, my students would be sure to leave me books they hoped I’d enjoy.
I expected my students to read thirty minutes a night, four nights a week. As long as it wasn’t a textbook assignment from another class or a comic book,* they could read whatever they wanted. A novel. A magazine. The newspaper. Anything. Some kids chose to focus on a series or a certain topic, such as historical fiction about the Holocaust. Others read whatever piqued their interest in the moment. For reluctant readers and avid readers alike, the opportunity to choose books was empowering.
If we’re committed to raising life-long readers, we need to let kids read the way grown ups do. Adults choose what they want to read based on preference, the desire to learn something new, to challenge themselves, or simply for pleasure. Shouldn’t kids be afforded the same privilege?
I wish I’d read The Rights of the Reader while I was still in the classroom. I wish Donalyn Miller’s extraordinary books, The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild, had been available back then. These books have sharpened my philosophy of reading, have left me itching for a classroom to read with once again. They’ve also bolstered my belief that young people will claim reading as their own if we provide them with a variety of titles, honor their choices, and model our own joy. It’s as simple and profound as that.
* If I were in the classroom now, I’d change this. I’ve learned the error of my ways!
Thanks for stopping by, Caroline!
Be sure to visit all of the stops along Jasper's blog tour. Every day there will be a new response from Caroline. Stop by and enjoy the fun!
Wednesday, February 8th – Teach Mentor Texts
Thursday, February 9th – Mr. Schu Reads
Saturday, February 11th – Late Bloomer’s Book Blog
Sunday, February 12th – Children’s Book Review
Monday, February 13th – LibLaura5
Tuesday, February 14th – All the Wonders
Definitely pick up a copy of Jasper and the Riddle of Riley's Mine at your local bookstore or library. Your readers will thank you!