This book has been reviewed by Thriving Family, a marriage and parenting magazine published by Focus on the Family.
It is 1925, and the frontier town of Nome, Alaska, is facing a diphtheria epidemic. Two children are very sick, and others are likely to contract the disease. The hospital in Anchorage, 800 miles away, sends medicine by train. But the train gets stuck in deep snow about 700 miles outside of Nome. The townspeople decide the only way to get the medicine is by forming a dogsled relay. Twenty-one dogsled teams intend to take turns carrying the medicine from the train to Nome. It will still take 15 days, but it is their only option.
A storm slows down the relay, and it falls behind schedule. A man named Gunnar and his team, led by a sled dog named Balto, wait to carry the medicine on the second-to-last leg of the relay. Gunnar stays awake for two days, waiting for the handoff because he wants to leave immediately when the medicine gets to him. Once he gets the medicine, he and his dog team face obstacles such as drifts of snow that nearly bury the dogs and his sled overturning. When the sled turns over, Gunnar loses the medicine package in the blinding snow, but only temporarily. Once everything is righted, Gunnar and the dogsled team continue on.
Balto’s keen senses keep the team from running onto cracking ice, but his feet get wet in the process. Gunnar acts fast to dry the dog’s paws in the powdery snow to prevent frostbite. The storm continues, making it impossible for Gunnar to see whether they are on the right trail. Fortunately, Balto’s knowledge of the route allows him to guide the team to the final relay point safely.
When Gunnar doesn’t connect with the final relay team, he makes a quick decision. He decides to complete the final leg of the relay himself. He and the dogs drive for 53 miles, 20 hours straight, before reaching Nome and delivering the medicine. The relay ends up taking just five and a half days.
As the diphtheria patients recover, Balto’s skill is praised in newspapers all across America. The following year, a statue of Balto is erected in New York City’s Central Park.
The doctor in Nome is concerned for the citizens of his town. Drivers of 21 dogsled teams volunteer to help bring diphtheria medicine to Nome. Gunnar is a brave sled driver who takes care of his team of dogs.
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