Treasure Chest
Jason's Gold and Down the Yukon
Jason's Gold Down the Yukon

One of the most fascinating things for me about writing Jason's Gold was learning about Jack London's experiences heading for the Klondike at exactly the time my story takes place. I know many of you teach Call of the Wild or To Build a Fire by Jack London. Pairing these books with my novel opens up study and discussion possibilities about how London's own personal experiences in the north led to the writing of his famous stories.

Jamie's father, Homer Dunavant, is loosely based on the famous poet, Robert W. Service. Head for the library and find copies of some of Service's most famous poems about the North: “The Cremation of Sam McGee,” “The Shooting of Dangerous Dan McGrew,” and “The Spell of the Yukon.” These poems are fascinating, accessible, and provide a lot of insight into the spirit and emotions of this time and place. They are also a lot of fun to memorize and recite around campfires!


bullet Writing: Have kids try their hand at writing a poem in the style of Robert W. Service, perhaps celebrating a place dear to them, or telling the tale of some eccentric character they know about.
bullet Jason admired Jack London, and was grateful for his help. After Jack London had returned back home, imagine that Jason kept in touch by writing him letters. He'd want to tell Jack not only about events up in Dawson and in the race to Nome, but about his feelings about being up North, about making a life for himself in this wild country. Kids might do this as partners, one writing as Jason to Jack, the other taking the role of Jack London and answering Jason's letters.
bullet In Down the Yukon we learn that Jamie has written a play about events in Dawson City. Form a writing team and write your own play about some facet of the Klondike Gold Rush, e.g., getting over the Chilkoot Pass, life in Dawson City, women of the Klondike, heading for Nome and what it was like when they got there.
bullet Canoeing is important in both of these stories. Find information about canoeing opportunities in your home area. Invite someone with canoeing experience to visit your class and bring in equipment to show.
bullet Design and build small canoes out of heavy paper, or try paper-mache in art class. Make one more like a birchbark canoe, another like the green Peterborough. You might even be able to make wooden models. One student sent me a photo of a canoe she'd fashioned out of aluminum foil!
Resources and Ideas for Teaching Will's Novels
Bearstone and
The Big Wander
Changes in Latitudes
Crossing the Wire
Downriver and
River Thunder
Far North
Ghost Canoe
Go Big or Go Home
Jackie's Wild Seattle
Kokopelli's Flute
Leaving Protection
The Maze
Never Say Die
Take Me to the River
Wild Man Island
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