Available Titles



Savage Mountain

a novel

John Smelcer

“Smelcer clearly knows his way around Alaskan mountains.”
David Roberts, author of The Mountain of My Fear, etc.

In the summer of 1980, brothers Sebastian and James Savage decide to climb one of the highest mountains in Alaska to prove themselves to their father, a tough and unloving man who has always belittled them. The brothers, always at odds, develop different ways of coping with this rejection, but each years to finally have his respect. Inspired by true events, this story is not about father-son reconciliation. Some relationships can never be mended. Instead, it’s a touching story of two brothers who test their limits and realize, finally, that their worth is not dictated by their father, and that no matter how different they might be, the strongest bond of all is brotherhood.

School Library Journal:

Brothers James and Sebastian react differently to their oppressive father's abuse. Sebastian tries to be the perfect son, achieving in school and personal life, while James is a rebel always getting in trouble. Neither approach works. So they decide to spend their summer climbing a mountain and prove they are "real men" to their Vietnam-vet, football-playing father. While they are not able to change their relationship with their dad, they are able to get to the summit and grow as people and brothers. Set in the interior of Alaska, this novel balances family dynamics, brother-bonding, and high-stakes adventure. … The main characters are well developed and readers get good insights into their personalities and inner thoughts. The mountaineering and Alaskan drama is realistic but also exotic, suspenseful, and exciting…. Extreme adventure sequences and the strong brotherly relationship make this a solid general purchase

Review from Appalachia:

This novel for young adult readers concerns the adventure of two brothers who escape the tyranny of a broken father to climb a snow-capped peak in Alaska. In this coming of age tale the boys on the cusp of adulthood have to cross a river, encounter a bear, scale a glacier, survive a mountain snowstorm and avalanche — all before they attempt the 8,000 foot crag whose scaling seems to offer the solution to all their problems. Smelcer clearly knows the vivid and captivating Alaskan landscape well, as well as the suddenness of action — a bear's unexpected appearance, a storm's rapid entrance, a stream's swift rise into a roaring river after the storm. Nature remains a raw, pure, powerful force, just like family quarrels, siblings, and silences. Smelcer likewise knows the art of hiding and disclosing action; adult readers will take pleasure in the stripped-down exploits that reveal the bare bones of a good action tale. But this also makes a valuable tale for younger readers because Smelcer tells the truth about adventure: the world's challenges turn out to be gateways to inner challenges. When the boys return home, not much has changed with their lives, with their father. The physical world remains the same. But the boys' inner landscapes have altered. They have inevitably moved along their own personal tracks toward adulthood.


Reviewed by Steve Barfield

Some men know that they are always competing with one another no matter the circumstance. Sometimes it happens between father and sons. Seeking admiration from a distant father, two young teenage brothers go into the perilous wilderness throwing themselves upon a brutal and even impossible mountain. Risk is in everything and the tension propels the reader through this heart-stopping tale. … You will feel the chill of an arctic wind blowing through his story.… Smelcer crafts a breathtaking Alaskan adventure story of struggle and determined will as the boys run out of everything except pure grit.

About the Author

C:\Users\Lisa\Documents\Lisa\Leapfrog\Fall 2013\manuscripts\Wolves\Johncloseup.jpgJohn Smelcer is the poetry editor of Rosebud magazine and the author of more than forty books, including adult and young adult fiction, poetry and nonfiction. He is an Alaskan Native of the Ahtna tribe and is now the last tribal member who reads and writes in Ahtna. John holds degrees in anthropology and archaeology, linguistics, literature, and education. He also holds a PhD in English and creative writing from Binghamton University, and formerly chaired the Alaska Native Studies program at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

His first novel, The Trap, was an American Library Association BBYA Top Ten Pick, a VOYA Top Shelf Selection, and a New York Public Library Notable Book. The Great Death was short-listed for the 2011 William Allen White Award, and nominated for the National Book Award, the BookTrust Prize (England), and the American Library Association’s Award for American Indian YA Literature. His Alaska Native mythology books include The Raven and the Totem (introduced by Joseph Campbell). His short stories, poems, essays, and interviews have appeared in hundreds of magazines, and he is the winner of the 2004 Milt Kessler Poetry Book Award and of the 2004 Western Writers of America Award for Poetry for his collection Without Reservation, which was nominated for a Pulitzer. John divides his time between a cabin in Talkeetna, the climbing capitol of Alaska, and Kirksville Mo., where he is a visiting scholar in the Department of Communications Studies, and is creating a new Native American Studies program, at Truman State University.

Savage Mountain • John Smelcer

174 pages ISBN: 978-1-935248-65-1

Trade paperback, $12.00
Young Adult
August 2015

Published by Leapfrog Press LLC • www.leapfrogpress.com

Distributed to the trade by Consortium Book Sales & Distribution

Savage Mountain Cover 

August 2015

Edge of Nowhere

Lone Wolves


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