By: Dirk Wales
Illustrated by: Barry Moser
Publisher: Great Plains Press
Publication Date: September 2008
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: March 2009
Jack London’s Dog uses an intriguing idea to model a story – what might have happened to the dog who introduced Jack London to the Yukon and was the inspiration for Buck, the hero of Call of the Wild?
Author Dirk Wales, an avid admirer of London’s, takes the real character of Jack the dog, an animal who lived with London briefly during the Yukon Gold Rush, and imagines what happened to the dog after London was forced to leave due to illness.
The story opens with a brief description of Jack’s (the dog) life on Split Up Island, the hardships and cold that both man and beast endured. Soon, Jack London arrives on the island and takes a liking to the sweet dog. The two become inseparable until illness forces London to leave the cold, unforgiving climate and return to California. Jack the dog dearly loved London and was confused by his sudden absence.
Jack is eventually adopted, or more accurately, stolen by two unscrupulous brothers and taken away to endure adversity both physically and mentally. Fortunately, kindness returns to Jack’s life in the form of Jake Jamison. Jamison, like London before him, adores Jack and treats the dog with love and respect. Together the two face unending cold, wolves, and avalanches. Eventually, word of Jack’s prowess at rescuing avalanche victims spreads all over the Yukon and he becomes known as ‘The Avalanche Dog.’
Jack London’s Dog is a fresh look at the incredibly difficult lives of those who swarmed to the Yukon during the gold rush days of the late 1890s. The short, concise sentences the author uses, “Dogpaws like windmills whirling into the whiteness of the snow,” or “They seemed to know their dependence on loved or hated men,” are visually effective, although they may pose some difficulty for children who are in the suggested age category, but are weak readers. Fortunately, for those children who enjoy this succinct and thoughtful style, the story wins out and holds interest for this short (60 page) story. I did find the ending incomplete, and it left me wondering what would become of Jack.
The illustrations by famed illustrator Barry Moser are absolutely marvelous and indeed, a big draw for this book. His black and white relief engravings capture the emotions perfectly – you can feel the cold wind blowing in each and every picture.
Quill says: A good history lesson for kids wrapped in an engaging story about a dog.