365 Days to Alaska

Rigel is tough as nails. Named for the brightest star in Orion, she knows how to survive in the Alaskan wilderness. Not many 11-year-olds can shoot and skin a rabbit but Rigel’s a proficient hunter. She’s spent her entire life living off the grid with no electricity or running water. Her family hunts their own meat and grows their own food. They only emerge from the bush to purchase essentials that they can’t make themselves. They have to take an ATV or a snow machine to get to town – there are no roads near their cabin. School is conducted at the kitchen table. There are no formal classes; everything she learns is through correspondence.

When Rigel’s parents announce they are getting divorced, she’s ripped away from everything she knows. Her mother relocates them to a suburb in Connecticut. She not used to living so close to other people. Or seeing street lights or hearing traffic. She’s homesick and miserable. Her father promises that if she can stick it out in Connecticut for one year, she can move back to Alaska and live with him. That’s just 365 days. She can do it.

School is another hurtle Rigel’s not at all prepared for. Attending formal classes is a difficult adjustment. And all the other kids think she’s weird. All the girls care about is doing their makeup and hair. Rigel couldn’t care less about those things. One day Rigel sees a crow pecking at garbage behind the school. It appears to be alone, which is odd because crows stay in groups. She wonders how a wild creature survives so well in an urban environment by itself. Maybe if this crow can adapt to city life, Rigel can too.

365 Days to Alaska by Cathy Carr is a book about resilience. Rigel has to navigate her way through a whole new life. She is completely out of place in her new town which is something I can relate to. I didn’t grow up in Alaska but I did grow up in a rural area but went to high school in the city, alongside sophisticated rich kids. I felt like a country bumpkin. The other kids wore designer jeans and belonged to country clubs. I wore my mom’s old snowmobile jacket and went to bonfires. It was quite an isolating feeling. I admired Rigel’s determination to stay true to herself rather than conform to city life. I would recommend this book for young readers who enjoy realistic fiction or for anyone who feels like they don’t belong.

— Lesley L.