Alaska on Paper

Posted: Thursday, March 11, 2010

"Raven Stole the Moon" by Garth Stein

When Jenna Rosen abandons her comfortable Seattle life to visit Wrangell, it's a wrenching return to her past. The hometown of her Native Alaskan grandmother, Wrangell is located near the Thunder Bay Resort, where Jenna's young son, Bobby, disappeared two years before. His body was never recovered, and Jenna is determined to lay to rest the aching mystery of his death. But whispers of ancient legends begin to suggest a frightening new possibility about Bobby's fate, and Jenna must sift through the beliefs of her ancestors, the Tlingit, who still tell of powerful, menacing forces at work in the Alaska wilderness. Armed with nothing but a mother's protective instincts, Jenna's quest for the truth behind her son's disappearance is about to pull her into a terrifying and life-changing abyss.

Garth Stein is the author of three novels, including the New York Times bestseller "The Art of Racing in the Rain" and "How Evan Broke His Head and Other Secrets," and a play, "Brother Jones." He has worked as a documentary filmmaker, and he lives in Seattle with his family.

"2010 Milepost" edited by Kris Valencia

"The Milepost" provides maps, diagrams, photographs, and most of all, an almost mile-by-mile travelogue of what to expect along the main roads in the North Country. This detailed information will allow the traveler to locate the next gas station, campground, hotel, or scenic spot in areas where signs and billboards may be scarce. The text is seeded with advertisements for many of the commercial establishments along the Alaska Highway in Canada and the limited major road network in Alaska, allowing travelers to plan ahead for scarce beds. Travelers can also plan ahead for fishing charters on the world-famous Kenai Peninsula or the operating hours of the few but often fascinating small museums and roadside attractions that can be found along the way.

The annual updating of "The Milepost" assures the traveler of some advance notice for construction or major changes in the road network. "The Milepost" does include some information on the location of trailheads, but serious walkers, bikers, and snowmachiners should seek elsewhere for detailed information on off-road routes. This guide includes convenient scheduling information for the Alaska Marine Highway System and directions to the digital version of "The Milepost."

"Man Who Ate His Boots: The Tragic History of the Search for the Northwest Passage" by Anthony Brandt

The enthralling and often harrowing history of the adventurers who searched for the Northwest Passage, the holy grail of nineteenth-century British exploration.

After the triumphant end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, the British took it upon themselves to complete something they had been trying to do since the 16th century: find the fabled Northwest Passage, a shortcut to the Orient via a sea route over northern Canada. For the next 35 years the British Admiralty sent out expedition after expedition to probe the ice-bound waters of the Canadian Arctic in search of a route, and then, after 1845, to find Sir John Franklin, the Royal Navy hero who led the last of these Admiralty expeditions and vanished into the maze of channels, sounds, and icy seas with two ships and 128 officers and men.

In The Man Who Ate His Boots, Anthony Brandt tells the whole story of the search for the Northwest Passage, from its beginnings early in the age of exploration through its development into a British national obsession to the final sordid, terrible descent into scurvy, starvation, and cannibalism.

Anthony Brandt is the editor of the Adventure Classics series published by National Geographic Society Press, and the books editor at National Geographic Adventure magazine. Formerly the book critic at Men's Journal, Brandt has written for The Atlantic, GQ, Esquire, and many other magazines, and is the author of two previous books. He lives in Sag Harbor, New York.

Four Against the Wilderness: The True Story of a Father and His Three Teenage Children Shipwrecked off the Coast of Alaska in Winter

by Elmo Wortman

First published in 1981, this Alaskan classic tells the true story of the Wortman family, trapped on an island in Alaska. From Kirkus Reviews: "A stirring, true story of a father and his three teenage children trapped on an Alaskan island. Simply told but gripping... as much for its horrors of guilt as its blistering man-against nature theme."

Between Breaths: A Teacher in the Alaskan Bush

by Sandra K. Matthews

In 1958, Alaska was not yet a state; it was one of the last frontiers in the West and offered a life of adventure to anyone willing to relocate there. Donna Joy McGladrey, the daughter of a Methodist minister, had recently graduated from college and was ready for what Alaska promised.

McGladrey became the first band instructor in Dillingham, a remote fishing village 350 miles west of Anchorage.

On her first day of class, the new music teacher discovered there were no instruments for the students to play--she had to convince the parents, who depended on the annual salmon harvest for income, to buy them. But her students were excited about music and they energized their young teacher as much as she inspired them.

McGladrey made new friends, learned to appreciate Alaska and its ruggedness, and decided to make her home in the 49th state. In those days before instant communication, she and her family maintained close contact through the mail. Sandra Mathews, McGladrey's niece, made extensive use of that correspondence to tell the story of her aunt's experiences in Alaska. Mathews also interviewed people who had known McGladrey and supplemented the letters and interviews with archival research. "Between Breaths" reflects Donna McGladrey's willingness to adapt, accept, and, perhaps most importantly, to rely on herself.

Whaling Season: A Year in the Life of an Arctic Scientist by Peter Lourie

Not all scientists live where they work, harvest their own subjects, or use information passed down from generation after generation of Inupiaq Eskimos to help learn about the bowhead whale. Arctic whale scientist Craig George is the son of children's author Jean Craighead George, and out on the ice with the whales and the whalers in Barrow, Alaska is where this Arctic whale scientist works. He has studied them for nearly thirty years and the mysteries these creatures hold never fail to amaze him. Join Craig at the top of the world, where the days and nights are long, the people full of stories, and the bowhead whale is at the center of it all.

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