Call of the Klondike: A True Gold Rush Adventure (Meissner and Richardson, 2013)
I’d recommend this book for a a nonfiction literature circle in grades 5 (savvy readers) through 8 (striving readers). It would also be worthy of doing a book talk and placing in a prominent space in the classroom library –in hopes that a student will pick up for independent reading. The authors have done a fabulous job of tapping and integrating primary sources “to tell the story of” two men’s journey to the farthest reaches of the gold strike in the late 19th century – territory near the rugged Dawson City in rural Canada.
In the summer of 1897, Stanley Pearce and Marshall Bond, two college friends, were in Seattle when gold diggers returned with a plethora of nuggets. They immediately touched base with family about financing a trip up north. Bond kept a diary and both wrote to their parents. These primary sources along with telegrams and news articles (written by Pearce) were preserved by family members and landed in the hands of Kim Richardson, a co-author.
The text is almost equal parts narrative/informational text written by the authors and primary sources--woven together in a seamless narrative along with maps, photographs, and other 19th century sources of print. The appeal of the narrative is in the harrowing moments of Bond and Pearce’s party’s trek across the White Pass Trail (where there was not a clear path and it was already snowing) and the ride down the treacherous Whitehorse rapids–all with a year’s worth of provisions! Then there’s the continuous exposure to severe weather and the many times futile attempts to discover any gold – all with a ton of work and an unexpected ending.
This book would be a great way to immerse students in reading primary sources – sources that are a little more accessible than say the Declaration of Independence – without a ton of support from you, the teacher. This is an important part of the Common Core ELA/History-Social Studies standards like –
Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
Analyze the relationship between a primary and secondary source on the same topic.
In addition, it’s just a rigorous text to challenge students to read, and as part of the experience, students can engage in the type of thinking the CCSS ELA Reading Informational Text standards require. Questions I might ask students to contemplate as they read and write responses or as they read and write in preparation for literature circles discussions:
- What is the role of the primary sources in telling this narrative? Why is this important to consider?
- How does photograph [insert page #] support your understanding of the text? Include specific details in the photograph and the text as part of your response.
- What is a central idea in this text? What is evidence from the secondary (text written by the authors) and primary sources that support this idea?
- Would you take this trip? Why or why not? Use textual evidence to support your reasons.
These questions could conceivably be asked at multiple points in the text.
Okay. Hope this helps.