“One Mush: Jamaica’s Dogsled Team,” by John Firth

John Firth
John Firth/Jamaica Dogsled Team (2010)
ISBN 9780986760303
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (02/2020)

Despite having seen the movie “Cool Runnings,” which was about the Olympic Jamaican bobsled team, I was still surprised to see a book about a Jamaican dogsled team! “One Mush: Jamaica’s Dogsled Team,” by John Firth tells their story. Determined to be a part of the Yukon Quest, which is a 985-mile trek through harsh, cold conditions, Newton Marshall set out to achieve this goal in 2009. Raised in poverty, Newton was the first Jamaican to pursue this dream. Having a gift for working with the dogs and being a natural athlete, he had a head start on this goal. Venturing into -31-degree weather had to have been a bit of a shock for a man who had never seen snow. It was also unnerving that he was headed across ice, without knowing how to swim.

In the 26-year history of the Yukon Quest, only 340 mushers have participated in it. Of that 238 finished the quest. Newton Marshalls goal was just to finish the quest. In his eyes, this was winning. The race runs through Alaska and the Yukon. It is longer than the 908-mile Iditarod race which is much more famous. The Yukon Quest goals are more geared towards people who are there to enjoy the adventure and not necessarily have to win. They also appear to place more emphasis on the proper care and handling of the dogs, than the Iditarod. It is also important to note that the Jamaican Dogsled Team has been an important part of promoting adopting dogs from shelters on the island and also encouraging islanders to treat dogs humanely.

“One Mush: Jamaica’s Dogsled Team,” is an amazing story that also educates us about the history of mushing. Vivid pictures on almost every page help illustrate the story. It is wonderful to see pictures of the people, dogs and places mentioned. We are also introduced to the interesting aspects of Jamaican history and culture. I also learned about the economic struggles that the island endured and worked on overcoming, especially in some areas like tourism.  Viewing most of this adventure through the eyes of a Jamaican man, makes it even more interesting and is a creative way to tell the story. My interest was immediately piqued, because I felt like I was following along on a journey, rather than just reading a dry history book. Readers were also introduced to other human members of the team as we read their stories about how they got involved.  

Along the way, a lot of lessons were learned, and things did not go smoothly or easily, but the end resulted in a Jamaican man from an impoverished past, becoming a role model and a sign of hope for youth with similar backgrounds. Newtown Marshall’s efforts are helping inspire change in others throughout Jamaica. “One Mush: Jamaica’s Dogsled Team” by John Firth is an interesting book that teaches some valuable and inspiring lessons.

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