The Klondike Cat
Reviewed: December 5, 2003
By: Julie Lawson / illustrated by Paul Mombourquette
Publisher: Kids Can Press
32 pages, $16.05
Julie Lawson’s stint as a Berton House Writer has produced yet
another children’s picture book, this one is a more historical vein than
last year’s Arizona Charlie and the Klondike Kid. This one seems to have
come first, though I hadn’t seen it until now.
In this book Lawson attempts to boil the whole Gold Rush experience
down into about 16 pages of text, enhanced by Paul Mombourquette’s great
full page oil paintings.
Lawson personalizes the story by adding an extra struggle to
it. When Noah and his father decide to head to the Yukon in 1898 Noah can’t
stand to leave his cat, Shadow, behind. So Shadow really does have to become
a shadow for awhile, invisible among Noah’s belongings until it’s too late
to do anything about her being there.
Once aboard the ship to Skagway, Shadow disappears and obviously
has some adventures that lead to her later condition. Pa relents and the
cat manages to make it over the Chilkoot Pass with them, his common sense
excuse being that there were “No mice in our food supplies” when other stampeders
kidded them about the cat.
Shadow has a litter of kittens just as the ice breaks up on Lake
Bennett and the flotilla begins to make its way to Dawson. Noah hides them
all the way to Dawson, where Pa is among the many to discover that all the
good claims were staked along ago. In desperation he tries to find a way
to finance their return to the Outside world.
It is while Pa is off doing this that Noah discovers how much
he can sell a kitten for in Dawson City - and he has five of them. The result
is enough money to see him and his father through the tough times before
Pa can find a job or stake a claim.
Lawson and Mombourquette have produced a delightful little book
here. It touches on the main points of the iconic legend while still telling
its own story, and that’s the tough thing about trying to use this history