Young Adult (YA) readers love adventure, and a look at work by Northern authors Joanne Bell, Keith Halliday and Anita Daher shows why.
YA stories can teach life skills and bush skills, as Dawson writer Joanne Bell demonstrates. Her first book, Breaking Trail (Groundwood Press), is the story of a young girl mushing her own dog team, with her family, back to their wilderness cabin in the Ogilvie Mountains.
In the adventure of learning how to handle a team, she grapples with the possibility of her family disintegrating. “Most of all, this book is filled with details of bush life, written by someone who’s lived in those mountains for many years,” says Bell.
Her new release, Juggling Fire (Orca Books), uses three story lines: one to relate Rachel’s search for her missing father, another for the father’s story and a third of Rachel’s own writing as her character grows up.
Inspiration was sparked when Bell watched her daughter practise fire juggling. “An image of a barefoot girl juggling fire under brilliant Northern Lights came fully formed into my mind.
“I walked into the house, sat down and wrote the ending. The rest of the book followed quickly from that image.”
Bell’s books have been translated into German and Czech and showcase her adventures, in the Ogilvie Mountains, to teens worldwide.
Keith Halliday’s MacBride Museum Yukon Kids adventures are a young reader’s introduction to historical fiction. The new Game On, Yukon! (iUniverse) features the Dawson Nuggets Stanley Cup challenge.
Aurore of the Yukon, Yukon Secret Agents and Yukon River Ghost all use adventure to bring the 1898 Gold Rush, the 1903 Alaska border dispute, and incidents in Yukon history, to life.
One reader’s father wrote, “Our son isn’t from the Yukon and has never been there, but [Halliday’s] book was an amazing way to introduce him to an exciting episode in his country’s history and gave him a sense of the role that even he, as a young boy, can play in the world around him.”
YA can also draw out reluctant readers as Anita Daher does with her series, Orca Books. When Daher’s daughter was reading lots of Ripley’s Believe it or Not!, “I felt she was missing out on the novel-reading experience.”
To make her stories as exciting as Ripley’s, Daher, raised in Baker Lake, opted for high adventure in the Junior Canadian Rangers. In Racing for Diamonds (2007), rangers Jaz and Colly uncover a plot to swap conflict diamonds for Canadian stones.
Poachers in the Pingos (2008) pits the pair against gyrfalcon poachers. And in On the Trail of the Bushman (2009), when fire devastates the Whitehorse Cadet Camp, our heroes convince a fellow ranger to reveal what he knows.
“Teens read at an adult level,” says Daher, “and want to read about people slightly older than themselves.” In YA’s shorter chapters, “plot is key,” Daher adds, lending great appeal to high adventure in the High Arctic.