Reading the North

Law of the Yukon: A History of the Mounted Police in the Yukon

By Helen Dobrowolsky; (Lost Moose Publishing, $24.95; e-book, $19.95)

The blurb: Historian Helene Dobrowolsky's definitive Law of the Yukon -- now available as a new updated and revised edition -- tells the fascinating saga of the Mounted Police's role in the Yukon from their arrival in the 1890s, through the tumultuous Klondike gold rush and the dangerously tense Alaska/Yukon border dispute that came with it, and onwards to today.

Excerpt: Sluice Sleuth

One of the more common and difficult-to-detect crimes in the Klondike was the theft of gold from miners' sluice boxes and mining claims. It was hard to prove that gold came from a particular claim and, unless the theft had been witnessed, evidence was hard to find. Members in plain clothes and detectives monitored shady characters and suspicious activities but many such thefts remained unsolved.

One successful investigation in 1911 concluded with the arrest of Jack Williams and James Stott, sub-foreman and laborer of the Yukon Gold Company. When the company manager suspected that his employees were stealing gold, he made wax impressions of several gold nuggets which were then used as bait on the claims. Constable Victor Christensen was detailed for plainclothes duty and hid himself where he could watch the suspects unobserved. When Williams and Stott helped themselves from the salted claims, they were immediately arrested and charged. Both were found guilty and sentenced to two years hard labor. Judge Macaulay complimented Constable Christensen for "his intelligent, impartial and straightforward evidence in the case."

Bo at Ballard Creek

By Kirkpatrick Hill; (Henry Holt, $15.99)

The blurb: In this children's book, Bo's family is not the usual, ordinary sort of family. That's because she didn't get it in the usual, ordinary way. She was headed for a lonely Alaska orphanage when she won the hearts of two tough gold miners who set out to raise her, enthusiastically helped by the other miners, the good-time girls and all the kind people of the nearby Eskimo village on the Koyukuk River.

Bo learns Eskimo along with English, is involved in the lives of her friends at Ballard Creek, helps in the cookshack, learns to polka and rides along with Big Annie and her dog team. And there's always some kind of excitement: an airplane landing, the first bulldozer, a roaming bear, the dog-team mail delivery and a mysterious lost little boy.

This is the unforgettable story of a little girl growing up in the exhilarating time after the big Alaska gold rushes.

Excerpt: The days grew warmer and warmer. Pools and puddles were everywhere as the winter snow disappeared. When Bo went to visit Oscar, all the snow on the roof of Oscar's cabin was dripping into the soft tired snow around the house. The snow was grainy and didn't glitter in the sun. Soon it would be all melted away.

Oscar's mother was Clara, and she was always glad to see Bo. "Onee, onee," she cried happily -- come in. Bo thought she was very pretty with her shiny black hair pulled back into a bun.

"Oscar, he's getting water," said Clara. "Be right back." Clara was like Jack, always working. She was sitting on her woven grass sewing mat on the splintery lumber floor, her legs straight out in front of her, the way Eskimo women always sat.

She was patching Oscar's winter mukluks. "He can wear them another year if I put a new sole on them," she said. "Still good. Oscar, he takes good care of his things." Clara talked around the stem of the long pipe she was smoking, little curls of smoke going up into the air in the slant of bright spring sunlight that came in the window.

Lena, Oscar's big sister, was playing her favorite record on the Victrola: "Bye-Bye, Blackbird." She grabbed Bo's arms and danced her gaily around the room. "Pack up all your cares and woes, here I go, singing low, bye-bye, blackbird," she sang. Bo laughed at Lena. Lena was the kind of person who always made you laugh.

Compiled by Kathleen Macknicki, Anchorage Daily News