Sunday, February 5, 2017

Book Review: Jasper and the Riddle of Riley's Mine by Caroline Starr Rose

Last year, I happened to read Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose over summer because it was one of our Battle books for this year.  As a new user of Twitter, I followed Caroline and was excited to find out she was a local author!  One of my goals this year was to have an author visit and we were lucky enough to invite her for our Literacy Night as a guest.  But more on that later.

I found out through Twitter that Caroline's new book, Jasper and the Riddle of Riley's Mine was coming out in February and she needed people to read and review her ARCs.  Being a savvy librarian, I quickly Googled what an ARC was (I'm new to this life people!) and then promptly signed up.  I was so excited to get the email and find out I was one of the lucky few!

Image result for jasper and the riddle

Here is the description from Amazon:

"Desperate to get away from their drunkard of a father, eleven-year-old Jasper and his older brother Melvin often talk of running away, of heading north to Alaska to chase riches beyond their wildest dreams. The Klondike Gold Rush is calling, and Melvin has finally decided the time to go is now—even if that means leaving Jasper behind. But Jasper has other plans, and follows his brother aboard a steamer as a stowaway.

Onboard the ship, Jasper overhears a rumor about One-Eyed Riley, an old coot who's long since gone, but is said to have left clues to the location of his stake, which still has plenty of gold left. The first person to unravel the clues and find the mine can stake the claim and become filthy rich. Jasper is quick to catch gold fever and knows he and Melvin can find the mine—all they have to do is survive the rough Alaskan terrain, along with the steep competition from the unscrupulous and dangerous people they encounter along the way."

When the book arrived I quickly started reading it that night.  And the next night.  And the next.  Whenever I get a book that is captivating I tend to lose sleep, and there were several sleepless nights until I finished Japer's story.  As a child growing up in California I heard plenty about the California Gold Rush, but it was fun to catch a glimpse of the life of Klondike Gold Rush hopefuls.  I love how Rose uses vivid descriptions to take you right back to the time of gold fever.  Jasper is a spunky character with an independence and recklessness that any child - and adult - will fall in love with at once.  As a librarian, this is a book I would recommend to my 4th and 5th grade reluctant readers - boys and girls alike.  There is adventure, riddles, and some history added in a way that will not be intimidating for those kids that tend to shy away from historical fiction. 

Below I have come up with a few ideas that you can use in your classroom while using Jasper and the Riddle of Riley's Mine as a read aloud.  Feel free to use them and let me know how they went in the comments below!

Twist the Story - Rewriting a Scene
There are some exciting scenes with dynamic characters in this book.  For this activity, students take a scene from the book and rewrite it from the perspective of a different character.  It can be a great way to explore how different narrators can change the way a story is told.

Primary Sources
One of the things I love about historical fiction is how you can tie in multiple standards.  Caroline Starr Rose's books are perfect for combining literature studies with history.  You have several ways you could use primary sources for this book.

1)  Use photos from the Klondike Gold Rush to introduce the book, a place, or some historically relevant item from the book.  I learned about Visual Thinking Strategies at the NMLA Conference this year, and it would be a perfect way to start looking at the history of the Gold Rush before diving into the text.  This strategy is beneficial for students that are learning English as a second language since it focuses on responding to visual artifacts (photographs and artwork) rather than text.  VTS is also a great way for students to orally practice giving evidence for answers, which can improve their ability to make those evidence statements in written work. 

You can learn more about Visual Thinking Strategies here.
You can find photos from the Klondike Gold Rush on Discovery's website here.  The Library of Congress also has some great resources.

2)  Compare and contrast primary source accounts from the Klondike Gold Rush with Jasper's experience.  Caroline Starr Rose does plenty of research, so it would be fun to see how close she kept to the true experiences of those involved! 

You can find some news articles like this one on the Library of Congress' website.  Just search "Klondike Gold Rush" and limit the results to what you are looking for, such as "New York Journal and Related Titles".

Research the Characters

Rose weaves historical figures into her books.  This can be a fun motivator for students to do a research project and learn more about those people.  Let students choose from a list of the historical figures in the book and have them do a research project before presenting to the class. You could do this before, during, or after the book.  You could also do mini-lessons on how to do research (search terms,  credible sources, etc.) as you run across these characters.  Just take 10 minutes when their name pops up to use them as an example!

Maps Unit
Stories like Jasper and the Riddle of Riley's Mine are perfect for some map work!  There is even a beautiful map at the beginning of the book for you to use.  You can look at the structure of maps before introducing the map at the front of the book.  Then track Jasper's journey as you read with a map posted on your classroom board.  Wanting to be a bit more ambitious?  Create a latitude and longitude scavenger hunt of places Jasper went in the book! 

Have several computers you can use?  Students can map out major events in the book or in Klondike Gold Rush history using Google Maps.  Didn't know you could make Google Maps interactive?  Neither did I until another librarian introduced me to it at the NMLA Conference!  You can see a tutorial on YouTube here.

Klondike Simulation

Now I'll be honest.  This one would take a decent amount of time to set up.  But it is my favorite idea of them all!  So if you create it, feel free to sell your materials on Teachers Pay Teachers.  I remember in high school going through a simulation while studying the Holocaust.  Each student received a card with a person from that time, and we went through different experiences to simulate what people experienced.  Some parts were interactive, while others involved looking at primary sources and other items from the Holocaust.  In the end, we got the second half of our card and discovered what happened to our assigned person.  I remember this being a very powerful experience.  With a lot of work I think a similar activity would be a great supplement to this book.  Maybe I'll take the time to create one this summer, but for now if you want to do it you will have to create your own.

I hope you have found some fabulous ideas to use in your classroom while reading Jasper's adventure.  Many of my kids are excited to read this adventure and I know they won't be disappointed! 

Do you have any fun historical fiction books and projects you do in your class?  Let us know in the comments below!

1 comment:

  1. So many great classroom ideas here, Kathleen! It makes me want my own classroom again. :)