Iditarod and Alaska books….
Several people have asked for suggestions on books to read for themselves or use with their kids. Maybe it was started by the Facebook post made with this picture:
This picture is the pile of books I picked up while in Alaska one year, or as a direct result of being in Alaska that year! I have a crazy habit of buying more books then I can possibly carry while I am traveling and frequently have to mail myself boxes of books to get them all home! I have read several of them, and am hoping to read several more before my next trip.
But, in the meantime, below you will find a list of books that I think are great, along with some ideas of how I have used them in my class (or for myself!). I’ll add more as I read more and/or as time allows!
Books to Read as an Adult:
Champion of Alaska Huskies by Katie Mangelsdorf – I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in learning about the history of the Iditarod. I had the opportunity to meet the author at a book signing in Alaska and then hear her speak at the Iditarod Winter Teachers’ Conference. She is very passionate about her subject and did a terrific job of telling Joe Redington’s story. It tells you the true story behind the race!
The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a race Against an Epidemic by: Gay Salisbury and Laney Salisbury – A must read as background knowledge!
Many mushers have written accounts of their adventures on the trail. Here are some of my favorites:
Cold Hands, Warm Heart by Jeff King – He is a great story teller!
Race Across Alaska: First Woman to Win the Iditarod Tells Her Story by Libby Riddles and Tim Jones – An amazing story of an amazing race!
My Lead Dog was a … Mushing Across Alaska in the Iditarod by Brian Patrick O’Donoghue – The author is a professional writer and it shows in this account. It’s a quick read that I really enjoyed.
A Tale of Two Iditarods by C. Mark Chapoton
No End in Sight: My Life as a Blind Iditarod Racer by Rachael Scdoris and Rick Steber – This is an interesting account of Rachael Scdoris’ first attempt at the Iditarod. It’s a pretty amazing story. I can’t imagine the courage it takes to run this race, let alone to do it without being able to see the trail. It’s fascinating to read about how she made it happen.
Chapter Books to use with Kids:
Born to Mush by Dallas Seavey – This is Dallas’ account of the 2012 Iditarod when he became the youngest person to win the race. It’s a great story that could be read independently by middle or high school students. I use it as a read aloud with my third graders during the race. They love comparing his strategy from his first win with his strategy in the current race. They also really, really love the scene where he describes how he uses the bathroom on the trail. They always ask. Now they know.
Dog Diaries #4: Togo by Kate Klimo is a fantastic story of Togo who, according to many historians, should get the most credit for the success of the 1925 Serum Run into Nome. The story is told from Togo’s point of view which is really well done in this book! This book will be great for talking about visualization with readers… it’s easy to see many of Togo’s pre-serum run antics in your mind! The appendixes are full of extra information too. I was thrilled to see that the appendix talks about the Iditarod without claiming the race commemorates the Serum Run! The book is recommended for grades two to five. It could easily be adapted to other grades as well. We read the book as a whole class shared novel. Here is a unit plan I published on the Iditarod Education Portal: Togo Unit Plan.
The Double Life of an Alaskan Sled Dog by Andrea Finney Aufder Heyde – Finney is the original Iditarod Teacher on the Trail. She had the vision and the drive to create and implement the program. She worked for several summers at an Iditarod musher’s kennel and earned a sled dog as payment. In this book she shares their story through the eyes of her beloved companion. Last year, I read the book aloud to my students after meeting Finney and hearing her stories. This year, the book is serving as a mentor text for our Writers’ Workshop unit on fiction. It’s a perfect example of how to take a personal narrative and turn it into a fiction book by changing the point of view of the storyteller.
Balto and the Great Race by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel – I use this as one of my First Friday Book Club books. On the first Friday of each month, instead of a regular reading class, we have a Book Club. I have roped the assistant head and the learning specialist into helping me, so I am able to split my boys into three clubs. They have a month to read the book and prepare for the club before the actual meeting. This book tells the story of the race to Nome with the diphtheria serum that in some ways is commemorated by the Iditarod. It’s at a 3.4 reading level.
Woodsong by Gary Paulsen – Also a First Friday Book Club book. A lot of people consider this THE Iditarod book and lots of people found their passion for the Iditarod started with this novel. The boys LOVE it…. it’s full of all the things they love – adventure, wilderness, and dogs. The second half of the memoir tells about Paulsen’s Iditarod race. It’s a little harder, and I try to steer my higher readers towards this one.
The Iditarod, The Greatest Win Ever by Monica Devine – Also a First Friday Book Club book. This is a different take on the race. It tells the fictitious story of a racer who gives up her chance at winning to help another musher who is in trouble. It’s a great way to drive home the idea of the “spirit of the Iditarod.” The boys enjoy it and there is always a wonderful discussion about why she did it and would they have done the same thing.
Mush, Mush by Lynette Evans – I ordered this from ETA/Cuisenaire, it’s part of their Worldscapes Series. This non-fiction chapter book was a super easy read for my third graders at the beginning of the year, but it was a good introduction to the sport and to how to read non-fiction texts.
Mush! Sled dogs of the Iditarod by Joe Funk (Scholastic) – I replaced the above book with this one t as my mentor text for non-fiction writing. The kids learned a lot of basic background knowledge from it. Although, by the end of the year it was routinely listed as their “least favorite book of the year.” By the end of the year the content was below their knowledge level – but it was great at the start of the year! My lesson plans for this book can be found here: http://itcteacheronthetrail.com/2013/09/29/mushing-towards-understanding-non-fiction-text-features/
Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner – We read this one as a whole class in reading. It’s perfect to tie in to our historical fiction unit in reading and our Native American unit in Social Studies. You could have heard a pin drop in my room as they read the last two chapters on their own. Then one by one you could hear the gasps as they got to the ending. It’s a very powerful book! There is also a movie, which we use to learn the art of the compare and contrast essay. My lesson plans for this book can be found here: http://itcteacheronthetrail.com/2014/01/03/skyping-stone-fox/
The Mystery on the Iditarod Trail by Carole Marsh – This is the one we read as a whole class in reading as the race is going on. It ties into our unit on mysteries. The boys like to point out the things in the book that are “wrong” in regards to the race, so it’s a good lesson in fiction writing. Its reading level is listed as 3-5, but it is a pretty easy read for my boys. My lesson plans for this book can be found here: http://itcteacheronthetrail.com/2014/02/07/its-crunch-time/
Picture Books to Use with Kids:
A is for Musk Ox by Erin Cabatingan – My new FAVORITE picture book. When I told my third graders we were going to read an alphabet book , the eye rolls were in full swing. But, they laughed so hard they were on the floor. It’s by far the most reread book on our Writing Mentor Text shelf. We used the book as a mentor text to write our own version, A is for Iditarod that we used as the basis for our Trail Mail project. We also shared it with our kindergarten little buddies which also helped make the idea of an alphabet book more palatable. Lesson plan here: http://itcteacheronthetrail.com/2014/02/15/a-is-for-iditarod/
Benny’s Flag by Phyllis Krasilovsky and How Alaska Got Its Flag by Bernd and Susan Richter – I use these two books during our unit on the United States when we talk about how the state of Alaska got it’s flag. Did you know it was designed by a child? After reading the book we the boys design a flag for our classroom.
Here’s a list of picture books I use during read-aloud starting the week or so leading up to the race:
The Great Serum Race, Blazing the Iditarod Trail by Debbie S. Miller
Akiak by Robert J. Blake
Storm Run, The Story of the First Woman to Win the Iditarod Sled Dog Race by Libby Riddles (takes a couple of days to read)
Kiana’s Iditarod by Shelley Gill
Dogteam by Gary Paulsen
Togo by Robert J. Blake
Danger the Dog Yard Cat by Libby Riddles