Tale highlights state's golden past
Children's book captures ups, downs in life of gold prospectors in the Bush, while recalling important chapter in Alaska's history
Last updated 9/28/2018 at 9:57am
"Pedro's Pan," a children's book subtitled, "A Gold Rush Story," was written by Matthew Lasley and illustrated by Jacob Souva. An engaging 32-page tale, it is a rare gem – a small volume that tells a big story.
Narrated by an Alaska prospector's gold pan, the book is cleverly written and wonderfully illustrated. From cover to cover, it is a sheer delight that young children will find intriguing, funny and exciting. Older children and adults will be equally captivated, not only by the story and inspired artwork but also by the exceedingly informative gold-panning, mini-history and natural science/geology lessons in the book.
Inspired by the true story of Alaska prospector Felice Pedroni, "Pedro's Pan" also includes a brief biography of Pedroni, gold facts, and instructions on how to pan for gold.
Lasley grew up in the Interior, a region of Alaska renowned for the Alaska Gold Rush of the late 1890s and early 20th Century. His family prospected and mined creeks and placers for gold in both Alaska and the Klondike region of western Yukon Territory, Canada.
Today, he teaches elementary schoolchildren in Anchorage, Alaska.
"Growing up in a gold mining family, I wanted to honor Felix Pedro, the man who started the last great Gold Rush in North America," Lasley explained. "Pan allowed me to capture the innocence of a child and the struggle of the prospector in a unique way."
Readers who have panned for gold in the Alaska Bush, like the author, will recall the vivid sensations of this uncommon pastime. For the rest of us, "Pedro's Pan" will fire our imaginations and perhaps inspire us to make a long-anticipated journey into the Alaska Bush in search of the illusive yellow metal.
Having panned for gold in the Klondike, myself, I can attest firsthand to what a sweaty, back-breaking and frustrating exercise it can be! But I can only imagine the emotional highs and lows that dedicated prospectors feel during prolonged quests for mineral riches.
Yet as hope springs eternal in the human spirit, so does unbridled optimism sprout and flourish in Pedro, the owner of the gold pan in Lasley's tale.
"Creek after creek, we search. Pedro sifts some fine black sand through his fingers and smiles. 'This might be the place to find gold.'" This passage in the book captures that illusive quality we, human beings, all share – the ability to see the possibilities in our situations, no matter the circumstances, and the capacity to envision a brighter tomorrow.
I loved "Pedro's Pan," not only for what it taught me about gold panning, but also for what it reminded me about the intrepid human spirit and how it can prevail against seemingly impossible odds.
Two other readers in my household also gave the book rave reviews. My six-year-old grandson, who read "Pan's" story with only a little help from "Grandma" called the book, "exciting," especially the part about the animals. My nine-year-old grandson, who has loved jokes and puns since he was a toddler, breezed through the entire volume, including the nonfiction section in the back, before grinning and calling the book "funny." He then sobered and observed, "It said the same things about gold that's in my geology book."
Yes, after his first visit to Alaska this summer, he has decided to become a geologist when he grows up.
"Pedro's Pan" is scheduled for publication in 2019 by Alaska Northwest Books, and GraphicArtsBooks.com. Distributed by Ingram Publisher Services, the hardcover edition will retail for $17.99.