“There’s many a tale told on the trail, by men who grub for gold,
‘Neath northern lights, on freezing nights, they huddle in cabins cold.”
So begins the best poem Robert Service never wrote, “The Bishop Who Ate His Boots” - or did he? That’s the mystery behind the plot in The Klondike Ring, the latest instalment of the Spalding’s Adventure•Net series.
Willow and Rick Forster live a gypsy’s life, following their parents all over the county from one video project to the next. As there are a good many videos shot in Dawson in the run of the average year, it’s no stretch to imagine that the Forster’s work might bring them here in their converted school bus camper.
The kids soon meet a Dawson youngster named Casey, who becomes their guide through a fast paced series of Klondike adventures: gold panning, rafting, running from a bear. During the panning, Willow discovers an antique ring and sets out to learn the story behind it. While avoiding the bear, Rick finds some poetry scribbled on wall paper and stuffed into a crack in an old cabin. Could it be a lost work of Robert Service?
Rick and Willow have to find the answers behind their mysterious artifacts while at the same time preventing the theft of the possible Service manuscript by the bogus new special events coordinator at Parks Canada.
The Spaldings researched this book most thoroughly while they were in residence at Berton House in the summer of 2002. They managed to pack just about everything they learned into 141 pages. They have scenes related to just about everything one can do in Dawson in the summer, as well as material from other seasons. The tale behind the ring is adapted from an actual local story they heard. Service never did write about Bishop Bompas, but Andrea and David wondered why he wouldn’t have (it’s perfect Service material) and composed a pretty fair pastiche in his honour.
The Adventure•Net series offers more than just stories. There about a dozen sidebar pages filled with information about the Klondike, information that is used in the story,. In addition, the Spaldings have assembled web links to go with each of the history and culture sections. I can’t vouch for all of them, but one is to our school’s website and links to a history page I wrote when I assembled the material for that a few years ago.
The Klondike Ring is a good story for the age 7 to 14 crowd at which it is aimed. It’s not to hard to read, but not too easy, either.