Monday, August 1, 2016

Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold

Title:  Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold
Author:  Iain Reading
Publication Information:  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. 2012. 272 pages.
ISBN:  1502300877 / 978-1502300874

Book Source:  I received this book through the book publicist free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "As soon as the engine began to sputter, I knew that I was in real trouble."

Favorite Quote:  "Humans tend to only be concerned with what is best for themselves ... But everything in nature has to live in harmony with everything else. Nature lives and breathes in different ways than we humans do and everything in nature has an awareness of the surrounding universe that we human being lost a long time ago."

Kitty Hawk, as her name would suggest, is a pilot. She is growing up "in a small village called Tofino on the far western coast of Canada, on Vancouver Island, where North America meets the Pacific Ocean." Her father gives her her love of flying. Her mother gives her free spirit. Both support her project of spending the summer after high school studying whales in Alaska. Kitty has her own plane, and she manages to get a corporate sponsor to fund the rest of the project. She heads off.

The book starts off as a naturalist's dream, speaking about the beauty of the Northwest and of Alaska. It talks about the relationship between man and nature, and the respect that we as human beings should show for the wonder that surrounds us. Then, the adventure aspect of the book kicks in. The adventure comes from gold, thieves, a kidnapping, and an old curse rooted in Alaskan history. Throughout the book, though, the history and the natural environment from the lakes to the mountains and from the whales to the bears plays a key role.

My favorite aspects of the book are the historical and natural descriptions. I love reading about the wonders of Alaska and the history of the Gold Rush. The maps of Kitty's journey are particularly helpful in providing context. The upside to this is that the book is educational as well as entertaining. The downside is that portions of the book become a historical narrative where the reader is being "told" the story rather than being "shown" the story or being made part of the story. This makes some sections of the book slow reading.

Kitty is a gutsy and independent heroine. She is knowledgeable enough to fly her own plane, raise money for her project, research and capture scientific details about whales, and keep her cool in some scary and trying circumstances. She is old enough to have a pilot's license and to fly off on an adventure by herself. She displays a maturity in her actions. However, a lot of the time, the character reads as considerably younger. In many situations, the book gives voice to Kitty's internal dialogue, presenting it as a conversation. The upside to this is to model for youthful readers a logical decision making process. The downside is, that although we all have these conversations with ourselves, reading them as actual conversations gives the book a more juvenile tone than the maturity of Kitty's actions would suggest.

I do wish guns had not found their way into a middle grade novel. The book is not violent; a kidnapping is involved, but it is not scary either. Unfortunately, guns still find a place in this book, as a tool of fear, and I wish they had not. The same story could be told without them. For me, there is no upside to including guns in a middle grade novel. The downside is that, well, there are guns and the potential of violence in a middle grade novel.

This book is the beginning of a series that promises to be "one part travel, one part history and five parts adventure." The beginning and the ending of this book suggest that Kitty's next project is a trip around the world like that of Amelia Earhart. Wonder what adventures that will bring her way?

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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