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Running North


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About the Author

Ann Cook is a sled dog racer, a columnist, and an American Kennel Club judge. Born and raised in New England, she's been a graphic artist, an antique dealer, and a contender for the U.S. Women's Rowing team. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband, her daughter, and thirty-five purebred Siberian Huskies.


YA-In 1991, Ann and George Cook, their 3-year-old daughter, and 22-year-old niece moved from New Hampshire to Alaska to train for the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race, an event even more grueling than the Iditarod. They took with them only the bare necessities in a truck and trailer that also held their 32 Siberian huskies. Alaska presented real culture shock: jerry-built houses, odd attitudes, a make-do culture, and a constant fight with the elements. The saving grace was that, like frontiersmen everywhere, people helped one another in the mutual need to survive in a hostile environment. The first half of the book is a fascinating look at the physical and cultural shift from L. L. Bean-land to one where ratty parkas were held together with duct tape. This part also tells of the dogs and the months of preparation for the race. The second half alternates between the race itself, as run by George, and the handler's side of it at the checkpoints as seen by Ann. George came in last, which they more or less anticipated, but simply finishing was a triumph. Despite the lack of a course map to orient readers, YAs who enjoyed Gary Paulsen's Winterdance (Harcourt, 1994) will find this tale exciting.-Judy McAloon, Potomac Library, Prince William County, VA

Cook has written a captivating account of her family's participation in the grueling sled-dog race known as the Yukon Quest, which supposedly surpasses the better-known Iditarod in toughness and danger. Her account of watching her husband struggle to complete the race against overwhelming odds is compelling enough, but her book is much richer than that. Whether she is writing about their move from New Hampshire, their first tentative forays into Fairbanks "society," the training of their dogs, encounters with moose, or the often less-than-hospitable climate of Alaska, Cook presents her information in a flowing, highly readable style that takes the reader on a journey most will never attempt. Young adult readers will find Cook a worthy role model, while adults will appreciate the detail she brings to even the most mundane events. This suspenseful, humorous read will have readers anxiously awaiting more. Highly recommended for high school and public libraries.ÄJoseph L. Carlson, Vandenberg Air Force Base Lib., Lompoc, CA

In the world of sled-dog racing only three long-distance courses count: the Iditarod, the Alpirod and the Yukon Quest. The last is dubbed "a thousand miles of Hell" for its 1000-mile course across moutainous Alaskan terrain, its requirement that mushers pack every necessity at the start and the fact that there are only six checkpoints in 16 days, leaving entrants alone and unaccounted for over vast stretches of wild, icy land. In 1992, amateur racer George Cook took on the Quest, with Ann Mariah, his childhood sweetheart and wife, serving as his handler. This is her fast-clipped account of their seven-month Alaskan sojourn, most of which was spent in a small town outside Fairbanks, Alaska, where they forged a home/training camp for their three-year-old daughter, a college graduate niece and the 32 Siberian huskies they brought with them. Considered inferior sled dogs by Alaskans, the huskies are among the book's most intriguing characters. Cook strikes a smart balance between reports of George's training with sketches of her own experiences as support staff. The book hits its stride when explaining their exacting logistical preparation. From frozen lamb cubes and salmon jerky to the best style of dog booties and clothing items like parkys and muklaks, the details are precise and absorbing. Cook doesn't bring the same vitality to her descriptions of, or reflections on, the Alaskan wilderness, but she successfully captures the social idiosyncrasies of her diverse cast. From Sten, a neighbor whose failed Quest attempt haunts him still, to Martha, an Alaskan who sews exquisite mitts and wastes nothing of her beaver pelts, the state's hale souls appear as particular as the untamed land they've claimed for home. (Oct.)

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