A Review of Jason's Gold
Edgar H. Thompson with Matt Lukas, age 13
Hobbs, Will. Jason's Gold, Morrow: New York, 1999, ISBN: 0-688-15093-4, $16.00.
Jason Hawthorn is an incredible young man alive at an incredible time in history, the late 1800s. After his father's death, Jason, who at fifteen is the youngest of three brothers, decides to travel and live on his own for a year before returning to Seattle. After several months, he has made his way to New York, when he reads about gold being discovered in the Klondike in Canada. Jason is determined to return to Seattle and make his way north to prospect for gold. He hopes to find enough gold to realize a goal his father dreamed of but never achieved: To be his own boss.
After hoboing across country to Seattle, Jason learns upon his arrival that his brothers have already left for the goldfields. At first disappointed and depressed, Jason decides to follow them. This decision leads him into many adventures, from stowing away on a ship going to the gold fields to climbing the Chilkoot Pass carrying hundreds of pounds of supplies on his back. He encounters many historical characters along the way, most notably Jack London who helps Jason at different points and in many ways on his journey. Jason faces great hardship and danger from the rapidly changing weather, lack of provisions, and overwhelming physical challenges; however, he makes many friends during the trip, like a Canadian girl named Jamie and her father, whom he meets again near the end of the book. He also befriends Charlie, a boy who loses a foot and part of his leg due to the cold, and King, a husky that he rescues from sure death at the hands of his owner. King and Charlie not only make the final part of the journey bearable for Jason but also make it possible to complete because of the help they provide.
A particular strength of this book is not just the power of the story and the adventure but also the portrayal of the history that underpins the story. Hobbs has very skillfully included historical detail and woven it inextricably into the story, like the recurrent appearance of Jack London at key moments in the story. Also, in a caring and responsible way, Hobbs does not avoid the brutality perpetrated against humans and animals during this "stampede" north. Instead, through Jason's eyes, he describes what is happening and by Jason's negative reaction to that which is evil provides a good model for dealing with the terrible actions of some human beings. All of this is done in a manner accessible and appropriate to readers age 10 and up.
Hobbs has done his homework, and it shows in this book. I really liked it, and so did thirteen-year-old Matt Lukas, whom I invited to read the book and then discuss it with me. Here is some of what Matt said about the book:
"I thought that Jason's Gold was a very well-written book. I found it to be exciting and adventurous. It was the kind of book that you couldn't put down. It told of Jason's adventures in grand detail. I really liked how Jason was the one who knew and helped characters who really existed. It was one of the best books I've ever read." Clearly, Matt and I both recommend this book to readers.
Reference Citation: Thompson, Edgar H and Matt lukas. (2000) "A Review of Jason's Godlwith." The ALAN Review , Volume 27, Number 2,6.