When ten-year-old Willy discovers that his grandfather is too sick to get out of bed, he is determined to take care of him and his farm. Despite discouragement from all the adults around him, he plants and harvests potatoes with the help of his dog Searchlight. Unfortunately he does not earn enough money to pay the back taxes his grandfather owes the government and decides to enter a dog sled race to win enough money to pay the debt. Willy does win the race even though he races against the champion dog racer Stone Fox, a Native American (Stone Fox)trying to earn money to buy back his tribe’s land. Willy’s victory is bittersweet, though, because Searchlight dies at the end of the race.
Willy demonstrates courage, loyalty, industriousness and perseverance. His win in the end is due in part to Stone Fox’s compassion and sense of justice. Despite the sad ending, this book is a worthwhile read.
Jennifer Minicus is a mother and teacher currently living in Ridgewood, NJ.