Sunnyside youths visited by author of books they’re studying in school

Author Claire Rudolf Murphy shows students at Pioneer Elementary School in Sunnyside a piece of early-period clothing often worn by children in Alaska.

Photo by Jennie McGhan
Author Claire Rudolf Murphy shows students at Pioneer Elementary School in Sunnyside a piece of early-period clothing often worn by children in Alaska.


Pioneer Elementary School Reading Specialist Kelly Wavrin introduces Claire Rudolf Murphy (right) to fourth grade students who have been reading Children of the Gold Rush.

It’s not every day that students get to meet the individual who wrote the book being studied in school.

Last Friday, however, fourth grade students at Pioneer Elementary School in Sunnyside received a special visit from Claire Rudolf Murphy, author of Children of the Gold Rush.

The story is set in the Klondike during the Alaskan Gold Rush.

Murphy, who currently lives in Spokane, was inspired to write the book while she lived in Fairbanks. She told the students many of her books are set in Alaska.

“This is serendipitous,” said Murphy, explaining to the students she wanted to meet youngsters who are reading her book. She was traveling to see her daughter and contacted staff at Pioneer Elementary to see if she could visit.

Children of the Gold Rush is part of the adopted reading curriculum at the elementary school and the author is proud that the students are able to learn from the stories of the children featured in the book.

The children in the book are not fictitious. The stories in the book were inspired by the children’s own writings. Murphy said she read letters, poems and journals written by the children in her book.

To further provide her inspiration, she has acquired a number of items that may have been worn or used during the Alaskan Gold Rush era.

Murphy showed the Pioneer Elementary School students boots, toys and other pieces of history that date back to the 1890s.

Murphy said she would not have learned so much about the lives of those living during that time period if it wasn’t for the fact that the children were writers.

“You might not think that what you write is important, but you never know,” she encouraged the Sunnyside students, stating it is important to write about their lives.

“There’s power in writing things down,” Murphy said.

She said she enjoyed writing as a youngster and continues to see it as an invaluable skill.

“I am interested in the lives of children,” said Murphy, explaining why she chose to write the book being studied by the fourth grade students.

She told the youngsters that the children living during the Gold Rush had to be strong in spirit, as well as in health because some journeyed from Washington to live in the Klondike.

Murphy said there were many challenges during the time. On the ship, many became ill. While traversing the mountain ranges, it was difficult to carry supplies and some were unable to make the entire journey.

She said authors often recreate the journey of their subjects to gain a greater understanding of just how harrowing the adventure may have been.

Murphy told the young students the journey and the lives of those whose stories she tells in her book inspired her to write a series of books, three of which feature Klondike “Klondi” Nelson.

Murphy said writing a book is much like panning for gold. She said a first draft is like finding pyrite. “It looks pretty, but don’t be fooled.”

She told the children to continue panning until they uncover the real gold. “It’s much more valuable…to me the real gold is learning and sharing the stories of others.”


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