The description on the back of this book seems to tell the whole story: Two young teenagers in Alaska, setting out on a practice run with their sleds and dogs, get caught in a blizzard and face many dangers before finally making it home many days overdue. However, despite the evident predictability, this story is mesmerizing and intense, and even has a few surprises.
Tatum is not as used to the weather and life in Alaska as her native friend Cole is, but she loves it nonetheless. She has dreams of one day entering the Jr. Iditarod and is pleased when Cole invites her to train with him one morning. What should have taken only a few hours turns into a five-day nightmare when a blinding snowstorm and a runaway sled dog leave them struggling to survive.
Author Sherry Shahan does a wonderful job of making the reader truly feel the cold and panic as we follow Tatum through her ordeal. The dangers she encounters are real without being overly dramatized, and while there are several dire moments, it is not one-after-the-other in a thrill-fest smorgasbord. Knowing that Tatum and her friend will probably survive does not diminish the suspense or lessen the reader’s apprehension. It is a mark of good storytelling that the reader feels both the quiet solitude of vast expanses of snow and the thrilling fear that Tatum and Cole may not make it home again. This adventure will be a hit with both middle grade girls and boys.
Jennifer Bruer Kitchel is the librarian for a pre-k through eighth grade level Catholic school in Nashville.