In her debut novel Yellow Dog, Saskatchewan author and Prairies North writer Miriam Körner has perfectly captured life in the north through the eyes of a curious young teenager named Jeremy. The story follows him as he learns how to run a dog sled and unravels a mystery about the elder who teaches him.
The book is full of life. Everything feels real and relevant, from the characters, to the dogs, to the setting. And with good reason: Körner drew inspiration from her own life and experiences living in northern Saskatchewan and running a business that offered wilderness tours by dog team.
The novel has a vibrant sense of place. Poplar Point may be a fictional town but the buildings and streets are clear in the mind’s eye. If you’ve visited a certain northern Saskatchewan town, you may even be able to tell which one Poplar Point is based on!
Readers unfamiliar with northern Saskatchewan may find the descriptions of roaming strays far-fetched, but its truth actually intensifies the sense of place. It also creates a juxtaposition between the truth of northern life now and what it once was when the dogs were cared for and valued.
It’s a setting we seldom see, and with a main character of Cree descent, the book is especially important to certain young readers who don't often see themselves in fiction. Already librarians in northern schools are ordering copies for their schools, a move to include readers who might feel left out of exciting, adventurous fiction.
Although the book is written at a middle-grade/young adult reading level it has layered storytelling for all readers. You learn about dog sledding along with Jeremy; your heart aches for his friend who comes from a troubled household; you might identify with Jeremy's single mother, or with the old man who lives alone at the edge of the woods.
The novel shows a deep respect for the dog teams of old and you come away with a sense that we can still value and preserve traditional ways.
About Miriam Körner
Miriam Körner is a writer, photographer, illustrator, and wilderness guide from La Ronge, Sask. Her articles about dog teams and wilderness living have been published in magazines worldwide, including Prairies North. Yellow Dog is her debut novel, but she’s also collaborated on two children’s books, Li’l Shadd, which we recently reviewed, and When the Trees Crackle with Cold.