Reading the North

Patches in Her Dreams

By Anne O'Brien, illustrated and edited by Barbara Johnson (Northbooks, $8.50) The blurb: This children's book is about a little girl growing up in Alaska and a horse named Patches.

Excerpt: "Seven-year-old Annie loved animals. She read stories about animals. She sang about dogs. She fed the ducks in the park. She played with the neighbors' cats. She dreamed about horses. But she never had a pet of her own.

" 'I wish I had a kitty or puppy of my own,' she often pleaded.

"But Annie's family lived in an apartment. The sign above the manager's office said: NO PETS ALLOWED, so she had to be content with make believe."

On Time Delivery: the Dog Team Mail Carriers

By William S. Schneider (University of Alaska Press, $24.95)

The blurb: From the turn of the 20th century in interior Alaska, dog team mail carriers were charged with maintaining the trails and carrying the mail until they were replaced by airplane mail service in the '30s and '40s. This book chronicles that history and pays tribute to those carriers and their families.

Excerpt: "The life of a dog team mail carrier was driven by punctuality in the face of often quite serious challenges. Good dog teams, the right equipment, well-calculated logistics, and an extensive support network made such a life possible. The business of dog team mail delivery extended well beyond the mail carriers to their families, roadhouse keepers, fishermen, and trailbreakers; they all played major roles. The number of people affected by dog team mail delivery grows even larger when considering the mail recipients, those trappers, miners, and small-town residents eagerly awaiting news. Mail carriers rode, if not facilitated, the rising wave of literacy in interior Alaska, and the mail -- with its magazines, newspapers, and catalogs -- exposed those living in isolated villages and settlements to the 'outside' world. The dog team mail delivery trails connected far more than post offices and roadhouses. When the era finally came to a close, the lives and communities connected by those trails changed forever."

The Wisdom of John Muir

Compiled by Anne Rowthorn (Wilderness Press, $14.95)

The blurb: This collection of more than 100 of John Muir's writings draw from the naturalist's diaries, journals, essays and books.

Excerpt: "Here was an aurora -- a glowing silver bow spanning the Muir Inlet in a magnificent arch right under the zenith, or a little to the south of it, the ends resting on the top of the mountain-walls. And though colorless and steadfast, its intense, solid, white splendor, noble proportions, and fineness of finish excited boundless admiration. In form and proportion it was like a rainbow, a bridge of one span five miles wide; and so brilliant, so fine and solid and homogeneous in every part, I fancy that if all the stars were raked together into one windrow, fused and welded and run through some celestial rolling-mill, all would be required to make this one glowing white colossal bridge."

Compiled by Matt Sullivan, Anchorage Daily News