365 DAYS TO ALASKA, by Cathy Carr, Harry N. Abrams, Jan. 19, 2021, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)
Cathy Carr’s 365 Days to Alaska follows a girl from off-the-grid Alaska as she adapts to life in suburban Connecticut.
Eleven-year-old Rigel Harman loves her life in off-the-grid Alaska. She hunts rabbits, takes correspondence classes through the mail, and plays dominoes with her family in their two-room cabin. She doesn’t mind not having electricity or running water—instead, she’s got tall trees, fresh streams, and endless sky.
But then her parents divorce, and Rigel and her sisters have to move with their mom to the Connecticut suburbs to live with a grandmother they’ve never met. Rigel hates it in Connecticut. It’s noisy, and crowded, and there’s no real nature. Her only hope is a secret pact that she made with her father: If she can stick it out in Connecticut for one year, he’ll bring her back home.
At first, surviving the year feels impossible. Middle school is nothing like the wilderness, and she doesn’t connect with anyone . . . until she befriends a crow living behind her school. And if this wild creature has made a life for itself in the suburbs, then, just maybe, Rigel can too. —Synopsis provided by Harry N. Abrams
At first, I wasn’t sure what to think of 365 Days to Alaska, but it didn’t take long for me to get hooked. At its heart, the book is about friends, family and the true meaning of home.
We’re all learning to adapt these days, and Rigel’s story underscores how difficult — and rewarding — navigating change can be. Hers is a story that will resonate with middle graders in any situation. Rigel is a character readers will not only understand but root for.
As a parent, I particularly liked the juxtaposition of expected responsibility and independence in Alaska and Connecticut. It serves as a gentle reminder that children are more capable of doing hard things than grownups realize, but that gentle and loving support should always be accessible.
365 Days to Alaska is a quiet read that middle readers and grownups alike will enjoy.