Monday, July 12, 2010

North by Donna Jo Napoli

North is a story about Alvin who lives in a small neighborhood with his mom and grandmother in Washington DC. Alvin has always wanted to explore the world, but his “mamma” can’t afford this luxury. Before Alvin’s father died, he had taken Alvin’s mother traveling all over the country.

One day Alvin’s Uncle Pete suggested they take a bike trip together. Alvin knew that his mother could not afford to buy him a mountain bike. That’s why he decided to pay for it himself. June through September he helped neighbors clean out their basements. He weeded old Ms. Ford’s vegetable garden all the way through the end of October. He saved $439, more than enough for the mountain bike he wanted. But his mother did not allow him to buy it. Mamma said Alvin belonged home and nowhere else. She hadn’t even let him go on last year’s school trip, and she wouldn’t let him go on this year’s trip either. “He felt like he was already dead under mamma’s protection.”

Everything changed when Ms. Artiga, his teacher, assigned his class a project writing about their heroes. Alvin picked a book on Matthew Henson who was once a North Pole explorer. Alvin looked up train schedules and the farthest North the trains went was Churchill, Canada. This is when Alvin decided that he wanted to be like Matthew Henson. He wanted to explore the far north. This desire pushed him over the edge, he wanted a change. Instead of going to school the next day, Alvin left the small neighborhood where he once lived.

A girl he met in New York helped smuggle him over the Canadian border to Toronto. Alvin said goodbye to the girl in Winnipeg before moving on to Churchill. In one train station he was discovered by the police, and hid away in the storage area which was not heated. Alvin got so cold that he passed out. He woke many times and heard voices, but was too weak to call for help. He did not know it, but he was heading to Churchill. He was soon found and treated by a man who worked in the Churchill train station. The man wanted to send Alvin home, but Alvin was sneaky and left when the man was asleep.

Along the way Alvin found help from many until he got to Pond Inlet where Idlouk Tana lived. There he was given the Inuit name Kukukulik, which in English means “The one who plays the flute.” Every night he played his music with Idlouk. Idlouk was the only person living on Pond Inlet. He lived in a makeshift house and survived on the animals that he caught in his traps.

At first Idlouk didn’t want Alvin to stay, but soon he was teaching Alvin how to survive in the Arctic. He taught Alvin how to set traps to catch animals. Idlouk shows him how to be very careful when walking, and to always poke his walking stick in the snow before taking a step. Soon Alvin is living like an Inuit.

This book was very descriptive throughout, and I could visualize each scene and each characters personality perfectly.

4 Stars

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