post written by Emma Filbrun
Title: Ice Race
Author: Gary Paulsen
Major Themes: Sled Dogs, Alaska, Iditarod
Synopsis: Gary Paulsen describes how he learned to work with sled dogs and ran the Iditarod.
We happen to live approximately 9,000 miles from our children’s grandparents. As one way to connect with them, my mother reads books aloud and records them, then sends the recordings to our children. One of the books she did recently was Winterdance, by Gary Paulsen. It is the story of how Gary learned how to run sled dogs and then competed in the Iditarod. With Mom’s censoring as she read, the story became suitable for children, but apparently it required a fair amount of editing in places. Our children got so into the story that we looked at the local libraries for the book, thinking that maybe if we had a copy in hand we could review it for this website. Winterdance is not in any of our libraries here, but we found Ice Race instead.
Ice Race is basically a children’s version of Winterdance. It, too, begins by telling how Gary Paulsen learned to work with sled dogs, and then spends the last third of the book describing his experience in the Iditarod, racing his sled dogs across Alaska. Some of the stories are pretty funny! From the dog who ran carrying a stick, to the mama hen who terrorized anyone, animal or human, who dared to cross the yard, to the bison the dogs ran smack into during the Iditarod—you’ll enjoy each story.
However, Paulsen is not a Christian, and this comes through pretty strongly. He identifies too closely with the dogs, as far as I am concerned, and considers them to be on our level. The feeling I get from much of what he writes is that humans are simply another form of animal. So, read the book for the information about sled dogs and the Iditarod—but beware of the nature worship aspect.
WARNING: Chapter 1 describes wolves eating a deer alive. Chapter 3 details the final thing that caused Paulsen to give up trapping. He believes it is wrong to kill animals. Chapter 4 mentions cave people and that “I am nothing more and nothing less than any other animal in the woods”. In Day Two of the Iditarod, he uses the name of God wrongly.
Read Aloud—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 13
Reading Independently—Ages 12 – 15, 15 and Above
Links to buy Ice Race:
Keywords: Alaska, Iditarod, Sled Dogs