One Fine Dog

He was called "The Wonder Dog"

They called him “The Wonder Dog”

I had heard of “devoted dog” stories, but when I delved into the history of a certain collie mix named Bobbie, I could only repeat what hundreds of thousands had already uttered: “Are you kidding? Really?” That’s because this dog, having become separated from his owners during a cross-country journey in summer 1923, resolved to retrace his route and head west, back home to Frank and Elizabeth Brazier. Bobbie would walk nearly three thousand miles during a six-month period (much of it in the dead of winter), all the way from northern Indiana to Silverton, Oregon, and into the restaurant that his people operated. They had given him up for dead, naturally, and he looked like the walking dead when he finally arrived.

In an age before social media, Bobbie’s wondrous journey made for sensational headlines across the country. He even made it into “Ripley’s Believe it or Not!” and attracted huge crowds during appearances.

My newest picture book about Bobbie will release in early April from WestWinds Press of Portland, Oregon. That may seem like a long time to wait, but I’m already revving up for the big celebration that will mark the event. And, of course, I’ll be available for author visits and talks anywhere in the country–but especially along Bobbie’s route.

So if you’re a librarian, media specialist, animal rescue operation, or shelter, start thinking ahead to April and see if this new book could be part of your school or organization’s plan to get kids reading and thinking about amazing animals. Let’s put our heads together. Click here to learn more about author visits.

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It’s all about the BOOK!

AlaskaBookWeek_final0115I’m so glad to be back in Anchorage, ready to visit schools, libraries, and get involved with big events like Alaska Book Week. It’s coming up the first week of October, when you’ll find Alaskan authors all over the state engaged in booksignings, talks, classroom visits, public presentations, and author fairs. Here’s what my schedule looks like so far:

Saturday, October 3:  Reading for early elementary children at Mountain View Library, 120 Bragaw, Anchorage. I’ll be sharing The Itchy Little Musk Ox for the read-to-me kids up to 2nd grade, and then I’ll read Charlie & the Blanket Toss for the children in 2nd-4th grades. Come on in and bring a brother or sister! If you own any of my other children’s books and would like me to sign them, bring them to the library, okay?

Sunday, October 4: Meet me at Barnes & Noble in Midtown Anchorage from 1-4 p.m.! They carry many of my books for children as well as adults. But now that Charlie & the Blanket Toss is an Alaska Battle of the Books selection for Alaskan 2nd-graders, we expect to see a big stack of them on the table. I’d love to see you there.

Saturday, October 10: Come down to the Loussac Library for 1:30 p.m. storytime, where I’ll be sharing a couple of books. Again, if you have a book that I’ve written, bring it to the library and I’d be happy to personalize and sign it for you. I love to meet my young readers.

I’ll update this calendar as other signings/talks shape up. Keep watching! And please, wherever you are in Alaska, join in the fun of Alaska Book Week–I’m betting there’s a special salute to books and Alaskan authors somewhere near you.

If your school or library (or another group in your town or village) would like to participate, click here for ideas on how to get involved!


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Return to 1967

Compiled by the Old Iditarod Gang

Compiled by the Old Iditarod Gang

A good part of my last three years has been dedicated to structuring, developing, and editing two epic books, each of which has a special tie to the year 1967.

The first book is IDITAROD®: The First Ten Years, a 400-plus-page compendium of stories, photos, artwork, and statistics surrounding those early years of the Anchorage-to-Nome race with sled-dogs. Compiled by “The Old Iditarod Gang,” the first-person memories come from the idea people, the trailbreakers, fundraisers, administrators, pancake-makers, artists, pilots, photographers, water-carriers, and a host of other volunteers–and the early mushers themselves. Make no mistake, this isn’t a light read. The hardbound edition weighs a full SEVEN pounds! Funded with Kickstarter help, and unveiled at the 2015 Iditarod, the book has been flying off the shelves. Consider it for yourself and the other mushing fans in your life. It’s beautiful as well as packed with great reading.

How was it tied to 1967? Well, the first race on the Iditarod Trail was held in 1967, as part of the Alaska Purchase Centennial celebration. Cities and towns/villages all over Alaska had been invited to come up with ideas to take advantage of federal funding. The Mat-Su Committee (headed by “Mother of the Iditarod” Dorothy Page) joined Joe Redington Sr.’s vision of calling attention to the area’s mushing history and the trail that runs through it. Joe Sr. and his son Joee cleared a portion of the trail for that shorter stage-race, which would memorialize Leonhard Seppala, the famed Nome musher who had recently died. The Centennial Race was the inspiration for organizers and participating mushers to broaden the race to a 1,000-mile run to Nome.

Celebrating 1967

Celebrating 1967

Now jump ahead to 2015, today, when I received an advance copy from the printer of the second book that’s also been my work-life these last three years: The View from the Future–2017: Fifty Years after the Alaska Purchase Centennial.

The old Alaska State Museum was one of forty-two community enrichment projects that were constructed with federal and matching funds back in 1967. The centennial of the U.S. purchase of Alaska was the first big thing since statehood in 1959. Some chose to build community centers, or medical facilities, to restore totem poles, or build libraries and museums…or organize a sled-dog race. In Juneau, the grand Alaska State Museum stood as testament to the efforts of the local committee. Over time, the state’s library, archives, and museum were one administrative division, but by necessity, the holdings were kept in separate buildings. It was clear that a new facility to reunite the Division of Libraries, Archives, and Museums was necessary.

As part of the mitigation for deconstructing the State Museum, state leaders wanted a book that would reflect back on the people and projects all over the state that were part of the 1967 Alaska Purchase Centennial. So we contracted with six writers and six photographers–probably many of your favorites. The writers: George Bryson, Nick Jans, Debra McKinney, Nancy Lord, Kathleen McCoy, and Dermot Cole. The photographers: Mark Kelley, Clark James Mishler, Matt Hage, Jim Lavrakas, Jeff Schultz, and Charles Mason. The six writer-photographer teams spread across the state and visited far-flung communities, asking, “What became of your Purchase Centennial project? Was it worthwhile? Is it still in use? Who were the people behind this great idea?” What they brought back, in words and spectacular images, appears in this beautifully designed book, with a Foreword by historian Terrence Cole, Ph.D.

While the print book is now finished, a small group of us continues to work on an enhanced eBook that will be released on July 1. It will be downloadable on most devices.

To order individual copies of either book, contact Taku Graphics in Juneau, Alaska. Click here.


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New Book Recommendation!

First Wilderness by Sam Keith 2014For those of you who’ve read One Man’s Wilderness, by Sam Keith, you’ve probably also seen the video spin-off of the Dick Proenneke story on PBS (titled Alone in the Wilderness). Years after the death of author Sam Keith, his family discovered a complete manuscript among his papers. Now the “lost” manuscript is finally in print: First Wilderness by Sam Keith was a joy to edit, and I’m looking forward to joining Sam’s daughter, Laurel Lies in two upcoming events. Please come if you can: Powell’s City of Books in Portland, Saturday, Sept. 27, at 4 p.m. And on Sunday, Sept 28, 3 p.m. we’ll be at Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle.

A new release from Alaska Northwest Books, First Wilderness is available at your favorite online or storefront bookstore.

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Here comes Charlie!

Watch for my new book!

Watch for my new book!

I’m excited by the prospect of introducing children to life in the Far North with my newest children’s book, due out at the end of this summer. Charlie and the Blanket Toss is about a fun-loving little boy living in Barrow, Alaska, along the Arctic Ocean. Charlie loves learning all about his Iñupiat heritage from his elders and teachers. And he can’t wait for the upcoming whaling festival that will feature dancing and drumming, plenty of good Native food, plus the traditional Blanket Toss. Charlie wants so badly to be tossed high into the air, too, but secretly he’s afraid. Will this be the year that he follows generations before him? Everybody else seems to think so, but he’s not so sure!

Readers, young and old, will learn the meaning and pronunciation of several Iñupiaq words in this warm story about family, tradition, and Native Alaskan culture. The wonderful illustrator is Sarah Martinsen, who lives and works in Barrow. We’re both very grateful to Fannie Akpik and Katherine Itta-Ahgeak, who were our guides in matters of Inupiat culture and history. (Thank you so much!)

I hope you love Charlie as much as we do! You can pre-order a book at your favorite bricks-and-mortar or online bookstore even now. And we’ll be doing some special events once the book is released. I’ll keep you posted!

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Iditarod Fever

A history in images

A history in images

Iditarod on KTUU-TV Anchorage

I’m so pleased that KTUU’s gave my new book some on-air time. They did such a wonderful job. So grateful!

Congratulations to Dallas Seavey, who won Iditarod 2014, one of the most grueling races in the books.

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Classroom Visits via Skype

I’m joining many teachers and guest speakers all across the country as we recognize the upcoming World Read-Aloud Day through “Skype in the Classroom.” I can’t wait to see how it’s going to go!

On Wednesday, February 26, I’ll be reading The Itchy Little Musk Ox to Ms. Oldham’s students at Willow Crest Elementary in Anchorage. We’re beginning a half-hour of reading and chatting at 9:15 a.m. Alaska time, so if your early elementary class elsewhere in the country would like to join us, it’s so easy! Please register for my lesson at It’ll be fun.

It’s all part of World Read-Aloud Day, with the Children’s Book Council and LitWorld, putting their resources behind the event, which is now it its fourth year. The actual Read-Aloud Day is Wednesday, March 5, and I’ll be visiting an Oregon classroom on that day.

Even if you don’t take part in a Skype lesson, if you have a special kid in your life, make sure to celebrate March 5 by sitting down with a book and then talking about it afterward.

And know that millions of others will be doing the same thing on that day.

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Just in Time for Iditarod 2014



I’m happy to announce the release of a new book! I’m a bit premature; it’s actually due out in early February, in time for fulfillment before the March 1 start of the 2014 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Many of you like my children’s books–watch for a new one on the shelves next summer, but this one, titled Iditarod, is for young adults and adult readers.

Arcadia Publishing specializes in photo-illustrated history books, and while Iditarod’s history is brief (1973 was the official first year), the history of mushing in Alaska goes back for centuries. The pictures inside are amazing.

Four-time Iditarod champion Jeff King wrote the book’s Foreword, and I am grateful for the photo contributions from many mushers and fans who were involved in Iditarod’s early days. It’s also loaded with professional photography by Jeff Schultz, official photographer of the Iditarod, who’s been shooting the race for more than three decades. For more information on the race, including the route map and details of the Anchorage ceremonial start and the Willow, Alaska, restart, see

I’ll be doing booksignings around Anchorage during the week preceding this year’s Iditarod start, so keep your eye on my calendar, and I hope to see you there! You may preorder copies online at Barnes & Noble or Amazon, or at your favorite storefront bookstore.

ISBN-13: 9781467131049

6 1/2″ x 9 1/4″

128 pages

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Ready for a Dose of Reality?

New in November 2012!

Let’s just set aside the Alaskan reality shows for now. Yes, they’re entertaining, but sometimes the sustained hype is wearisome. Still we watch!

You want reality? Here’s the real deal: my newest book from Alaska Northwest Books, The Alaska Homesteader’s Handbook: Independent Living on the Last Frontier.

I partnered with Palmer, Alaska, resident Nancy Gates to interview forty-four Alaskans for this how-to book, so each “chapter” is a mini-profile coupled with a tip from that person for getting along in the wilderness. From tying useful knots, to putting in a winter waterhole through the river ice, to field-dressing your moose . . . you’ll be amazed at what these pioneers, old and young, have to teach! And all of the how-to segments are beautifully illustrated by Natalie Gates.

Build an outhouse, lay the perfect campfire, overwinter your chickens. What works on the Last Frontier will work in your neck of the woods. So take a lesson or two from these Alaskans. Get yourself a copy and buy one for each of your friends!

They’ll be in your favorite bookstore or online bookseller. Just ask for ISBN 978-0882408118.

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School’s Almost Over

Super librarian Diane Firmani and me

Super librarian Diane Firmani and me with kinders


I’ve had the busiest school year to date, with trips to the Midwest, the Pacific Northwest, and to Alaska. I visited public and private schools, as well as libraries and bookstores. Here’s where I’ve been this year:

MIDWEST: Winslow Elementary, Indiana; Alan Shepard Elementary, Illinois; Kankakee Valley Montessori School, Bourbonnais, Illinois; Limestone School, Kankakee, Illinois; Kankakee Public Library, Illinois.

SOUTHEAST ALASKA: Southeast Island School District schools—Hollis, Thorne Bay, Kasaan, Port Protection, Coffman, Naukati, Edna Bay, and Whale Pass; Craig Elementary, Craig; Craig Public Library, Craig; Hydaburg School, Hydaburg; Ketchikan Public Library in association with Parnassus Books, Ketchikan; Holy Name School, Ketchikan; Tongass School of the Arts and Sciences, Ketchikan; Point Higgins School, Ketchikan; Juneau Public Library; Riverbend Elementary, Juneau; Gastineau Elementary, Juneau.

ANCHORAGE: ReadAlaska Book & Craft Fair, Anchorage Museum; Police Navidad, Dena’ina Convention Center; Ocean View Elementary; Bear Valley Elementary; Aurora Elementary; Northern Lights Elementary, Bowman Elementary.

MAT-SU VALLEY: Shaw Elementary, Wasilla; Tanaina Elementary, Wasilla; Fred & Sara Machetanz Elementary, Wasilla

FAIRBANKS / NORTH POLE: Gulliver’s Books, Fairbanks; Santa Claus House, North Pole; Arctic Traveler’s Gift Shop, Fairbanks; Salcha School, Salcha; Weller Elementary, Fairbanks; Fairbanks North Star Borough Public Library, Fairbanks; Barnes & Noble, Fairbanks; Cold Spot Feeds, Fairbanks.

OREGON: Boeckman Elementary, Wilsonville; Watts Elementary, Scappoose.

And more good news: I’ve recently learned that a favorite book of mine, GROUCHO’S EYEBROWS, has been named for the Alaska Battle of the Books 2012-13 reading list! That also means more opportunities to get out there and visit students next year. Start planning and let me know if you’d like me to visit your school or local library. Click on the School Visits tab for more info.

Groucho's Eyebrows--so cute!

Groucho's Eyebrows by a Watts Elementary artist!

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