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This year will mark the 50th anniversary of the Iditarod, starting March 5, 2022. Mushers from around the world will travel to Alaska to take part in a 975-mile race to Nome. It’s a wonderful event where we celebrate the power of dogs and the mushers who love them.
I’m a big fan of mushing, having had the opportunity to learn how to dog sled in 2017. Since then I’ve been able to go to Alaska and the Yukon to follow another ultramarathon, the Yukon Quest, which is also about 1,000 miles long and considered by some to be a more difficult race. The mushers welcomed me to their kennel where I could see their wonderful dogs. I’ve been on the front line where the dogs are eager to race – sometimes more than the musher himself! Also, I walked part of the race in central Alaska and got to know the incredibly generous people there and saw the beauty of Alaska.
As the pandemic has brought my dog sledding adventures to a halt, I’ve put together a list of picture books for K-3 readers to stay engaged in the sport. As a mother of a young child, I want to share a bit of this world with her through these wonderful books.
A word of warning – I was surprised at how few books on dog sledding for this age group have been written or illustrated by people of color, especially how much the practice of dog sledding has its roots in indigenous communities around the world.
Kamik joins the pack by Darryl Baker and Qin Leng
Jake can’t wait to see what his dog Kamik can do in a dog sledding team. He learns from his uncle how to become a musher. For people who want to learn the basics of dog sledding, this one is awesome. He talks about dog care, training, and more. It’s also a great story for people who want to learn how to do anything – it takes time and effort. It is one of many books in the Kamik series.
dog team by Gary Paulsen and Ruth Wright Paulsen
The first book I read on dog sledding was by Gary Paulsen, who passed away last year. I was not a big fan of Hatchetcorn Winterdance: The Beautiful Madness of Racing the Iditarod was magical. dog team captures the beauty of dog sledding in a picture book. It really captures the oneness a musher feels with their dogs as they traverse a snowy landscape.
Go by Robert J. Blake
This book covers the famous Serum Race of 1925 where a team of mushers raced against time to bring life-saving serum to sick children in Nome, Alaska. While most people familiar with the story may be familiar with Balto, the lead dog, who brought the team to Nome, this book focuses on Togo, Leonhard Seppala’s lead dog, who covered a much of the distance between Nenana and Nome. It’s a great story about a dog who just didn’t act or look like people expected and later became a hero. There’s also a big movie of the same name starring Willem Dafoe as Seppala in 2019.
Sled dog race by Jonathan London and Jon Van Zyle
This book also reviews the basics of dog sled training, starting when dogs are puppies until they are old enough to boil. It covers dog sledding basics like equipment and, as in Paulsen’s book, shows the important bond between the musher and his dogs.
Dogs on the Trail: A Year in the Life by Blair Braverman and Quince Mountain
So this book is a bit different from the rest of the list. This is a non-fiction book for all ages published in 2021 about the dogs of Braverman and Mountain. Both are mushers who have raced competitively. The book came out of Braverman sharing photos of their dogs on Twitter and finding that people really liked hearing about the “Ugly Dogs”. Filled with many photos, the book follows the training of their dogs throughout the year. It’s a fun pictorial look at the world of sled dogs and their mushers.
Anna, big enough: the little sled dog who braved the Arctic by Pam Flowers and Bill Farnsworth
This book chronicles Anna, a sled dog who helped Pam Flowers accomplish her quest to cross the North American Arctic with an eight-dog sled. Flowers is an accomplished explorer who received the Society of Women Geographers Gold Medal in 1996 and has written several books for different ages.
fearless john By Kelly Rauzi
Most people are familiar with the Iditarod, but there are many other dog sled races, including the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon in Minnesota. This book explores the life of John Beargrease, the son of an Anishinabe chief, who delivered mail and supplies by dog sled. It is a celebration of the man as well as the tradition of dog sledding as an important means of delivering mail and supplies.
Storm Run: The Story of the First Woman to Win the Iditarod Sled Dog Race by Libby Riddles and Shannon Cartwright
Although this book sits a little on the older end of the K–3 spectrum (well, 3–7), the book follows the story of Liddy Riddles, the first woman to win the Iditarod. It shows her determination to win the race and how she faced great obstacles including a big storm! Race through Alaska: The first woman to win the Iditarod tells her story also worth reading for adults.
I hope we will have more books, non-fiction and fiction, about dog sledding, including those about the Yukon Quest, my favorite dog sledding race. Also, shorter dog sports like canicross, bikejoring and others have become very popular, so it would be great to see picture books reflecting these sports.
Want more? Check out my list of adult dog sledding books and my experience meeting champion musher Jeff King and asking him to sign my book.