by Caroline Starr Rose
Published Feb, 2017
G.P. Putnam's and Sons Books for Young Readers
Hoping to strike it rich, two brothers escape an abusive father and set out on a treacherous journey to Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush.
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.
In an endearing, funny, pitch-perfect middle grade voice, Caroline Starr Rose tells another stellar historical adventure young readers will long remember.
I really enjoyed this story of Jasper and his brother Mel as they face MANY challenges on their journey to try to strike it rich. This book held on and would not let me go. I felt as though I was right there with Jasper every step along the way. Caroline Starr Rose is a gifted writer who understands her readers.
Students that enjoy lots of adventure will love Jasper and the Riddle of Riley's Mine.
I am thrilled that Caroline Starr Rose decided to stop by today.
She answers the question:
How was writing JASPER AND THE RIDDLE OF RILEY’S MINE different from writing your previous novels?
At first glance, Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine isn’t much different than my other novels. All three are historical fiction about characters who bravely face their everyday worlds. But Jasper’s story steps outside the bounds of my previous work in a couple significant ways.
My first two novels, May B. and Blue Birds, are in verse, while Jasper’s written in prose. That’s significant for a whole host of reasons. A verse novel is like a photo album, a collection of images that capture one moment and add to the whole. But prose is like a movie with rolling film. Scenes run deeper and wider. While verse is spare and focuses on emotion and imagery, Prose is verbose. It lets a story unfold at its leisure. Though emotion and imagery can play a part, they’re not central to the form. A book of prose has far fewer scenes than a verse novel. There’s so much room in a single scene I wasn’t sure how to handle the limitless space. I raced through my first few drafts, worried I’d lose a reader’s interest with all those words. My editor encouraged me to take my time and luxuriate in the book’s present moment. It was like learning a new way to communicate.
Researching the history for this novel was also a different experience from the behind-the-scenes work I did on the other two. May B., set on the Kansas frontier, is what I like to call history light: There are no historical events or figures anchoring the story to a set date. It is simply a book that takes place in another era. And while Blue Birds centers on a specific moment in time —England’s first (doomed) colony in the Americas — and includes true historical figures, very little is known about the events that unfolded on Roanoke island 430 years ago. Compare that to Jasper’s setting, the Klondike Gold Rush, where first-hand accounts are easily accessible. In fact, newspapers, letters, journals, stories, poetry, and a whole host of history books have been devoted to this event alone. It was almost overwhelming, the amount of information I had in front of me.
Another key difference between this book and my others is that it sold before I’d written a single word. Though I had an idea in mind and a feel for Jasper’s character, I hadn’t begun researching or drafting. While Blue Birds was with my editor, I had to learn the tricky process of writing while on deadline. If that’s not a crash course on the writing life, I don’t know what is!
There are so many other things I could mention: writing from a boy’s perspective (how fun this was, and how it sometimes exposed hidden biases I didn’t realize I had), the complexity of weaving a mystery into the story (What were the clues Jasper had to unravel to find Riley’s gold mine? Where would he find them? What would they mean?), or telling a story over a 2,000-mile journey. Each brought their own challenges and opportunities to learn.
This is the book that taught me if I kept showing up to do the work, someday I’d run out of mistakes to make, someday I’d move closer to the story I was trying to tell: A historical novel with a character who bravely faces his everyday world, just like the other two.
Thanks again to Caroline Starr Rose for sharing about her writing here today. Please check out some of her other books.
Please visit these other stops along the blog tour for Jasper and the Riddle of Riley's Mine.
Wednesday, February 8th – Teach Mentor Texts
Thursday, February 9th – Mr. Schu Reads
Friday, February 10th – Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook
Saturday, February 11th – Late Bloomer’s Book Blog
Sunday, February 12th – Children’s Book Review
Monday, February 13th – LibLaura5
Tuesday, February 14th – All the Wonders