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Tracking a re-release

Adam Johnson
Northern News Services

Behchoko (Dec 18/06) - Armed with a few props and a backpack full of good stories, Yellowknife author Jamie Bastedo introduced young readers to an old favourite in Behchoko last week.

Bastedo holed up in the library of Chief Jimmy Bruno School in Behchoko all day Wednesday, as he re-released his first novel, Tracking Triple Seven, to groups of students.
NNSL Photo/graphic

Yellowknife author Jamie Bastedo addresses the crowd during the NorthWords Writer's Festival at the NWT Legislative Assembly. Last week, he was in Behchoko to promote the re-release of his first novel, Tracking Triple Seven. - Adam Johnson/NNSL photo

"It was a lot of fun," he said. "They set me up in the library and they kept bringing kids to me."

To keep the students interested, Bastedo brought a full multimedia display along with him.

"Basically I set up my video and slide show and posters and piles of books," he said. "I had a 47-year-old teddy bear that I used to sleep with when I was a little kid and I had a $6,000 grizzly collar with me."

"They're props that really bring the story alive for kids."

Tracking Triple Seven was first released in 2001, and is the best-selling of Bastedo's eight books and novels. He calls it a "classic story about a boy and a bear."

It follows Benji, the 14-year-old son of a diamond mine owner, who takes an interest in a collared grizzly (designated 7-7-7) after accidentally joining a group of biologists monitoring bears around the mine.

Bastedo said the students plied him with questions about the characters in the books, what they were based on and why there were no pictures of them.

"One said 'we have pictures' and pointed to the back wall," he said.

When Bastedo looked, he was overwhelmed by a wall of artwork inspired by his words; images of a grizzly attacking, of a kid hiding behind a rock and of cubs nuzzling at their mother.

"The class had made pictures from my word pictures," he said. "It was really just a heart-stirring affirmation for me."

While a work of fiction, the book is inspired by Bastedo's time as a naturalist at Ekati mine, where he maintained two notebooks:

"A white one of data on caribou and a black one where I recorded overheard conversations of pilots and blasters. That black book became tracking triple seven."

Bastedo said the book has sold around 5,000 copies in Canada, "which I guess makes it a Canadian bestseller," he said.

While his latest novel hasn't quite reached that marker yet, Bastedo has high hopes.

"On Thin Ice is definitely catching up," he said.