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Mysteries in our National Parks: Buried Alive

Last updated Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Author: Gloria Skurzynski
Illustrator: Alane Ferguson
Date of Publication: 2003
ISBN: 0792269667
Grade Level: 5th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Apr. 2008

Synopsis: From This latest thriller takes the Landons to Alaska, where wildlife biologist Olivia and her photographer husband, Steven, have been asked to study the impact of snowmobiles on the wolverine population of Denali National Park. With the family is 13-year-old Nicky Milano. When a man in a Park Service uniform offers to take Jack, Ashley, and Nicky on a dogsled ride, the kids eagerly accept. They mush off across the snow, riding deeper and deeper into the frozen wilderness. But during a rest stop, the man suddenly rushes off, leaving the young people stranded. As they huddle to keep warm and try to figure out what to do, they hear a deafening roar. Avalanche! Now the kids must fight for their lives. Can they somehow escape the thundering mass of snow? Or will they be buried alive?

Note to readers:
•  Read the introduction/forward before the first Chapter to the kids. It’s an important part of the story and will get them interested. This book takes place in Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska. The authors (in all of the series) describe realistic events which occur. In the first chapter, a caribou is killed by wolves while the family watches. It does a good job of discussing the circle of life and why they cannot interfere in a Preserve (vs. Park).
•  Vocabulary: • Biodegradable • Cacophony • Acrid • Pristine

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Have you ever been to the snow? What kind of clothing do you have to wear?
•  What kinds of animals live in Alaska? Are their skins/furs thicker? Why?
•  Do you know where Alaska is? Look for it on a globe or map in the classroom.
•  How do you think Alaska is different than Southern California? Is it bigger, colder, warmer, wetter, sunnier? Why is the temperature different? (Alaska is colder b/c it is closer to the North Pole–the top of the earth.)
•  How is Alaska getting to be more like California? What is causing this change? Is this good or bad for us or the animals?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Do you know what the CIA is? Why do they have to be so secretive?
•  Have you ever seen any wild animals in real life?
•  Have you ever been to a National Park or any park? Why is it important not to interfere or destroy things in our parks?
•  Do you know what the “aurora borealis” is and where you can find it? The aurora borealis is also called the Northern Lights (and Southern Polar Lights) and can only be found in areas near the two poles (North and South). They are natural lights which show in the sky and are red, green, blue/violet in color. They occur when particles from the Sun collide with particles from Earth’s atmosphere.
•  Ask if they know what the “Circle of Life” means. Give examples of how larger animals must feed on smaller animals to survive and how the smaller animals feed on even smaller animals, etc.
•  Do you think Nicky’s dad is with the CIA? Why or why not?
•  Do you think Nicky is in danger? What about the Lander’s family?
•  Do you think it is important to keep a secret if you promised someone you will?
•  In the first few chapters, the book described wolves (who ate the caribou) and wolverines. They sound similar but what are their differences? (Wolves travel in packs and are part of the dog family; Wolverines travel alone and are part of the weasel family)

Craft ideas:
•  Draw a sled led by the sled dogs described in the book.
•  Make a mask–one side a wolf and the other a wolverine.
•  Make a notebook out of recycled paper and magazines. Bring leftover white paper from work and cut it into four rectangles. (If using regular 8 ˝ x 11 copy paper, you can make four notebooks from several sheets of paper.) The work paper should have one side that does not have printing. Make sure all the pages without writing are facing up. Cut a piece of construction paper in half and use that as the cover to the notebook. (One piece of construction paper will make 2 covers). The notebook can be like a book or like a tablet depending on how you cut the construction paper! Wrap the construction paper around the cut recycled paper and staple one edge (either the top or the side depending on how you cut the construction paper). Color the cover or better yet, have the kids cut out colors, letters, photos from old newspapers, magazine etc... and glue them on the cover!
•  Draw a picture of the circle of life–you can start with yourself and draw the animals you might eat (fish, cows, chickens); then draw what they eat....or draw another animal and what they eat ....remember the wolves ate the caribou–what did the caribou eat?

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don't have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!