September Picks--Admirable Dog Heroes - The Missourian: Book Buzz News

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September Picks--Admirable Dog Heroes

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Posted: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 12:14 pm | Updated: 2:09 pm, Tue Oct 1, 2013.

People steer clear of bees, other than the reading breed like me, but they don’t collar their affection when it comes to dogs. In his flyovers, Newsbee sees fleets of folks frolicking with their Fidos and is inspired to suggest books about “Admirable Dog Heroes.” These mutts with guts have left their paw prints on human hearts and provided memories to last a lifetime. Sure you’ll find my September Picks bark-worthy and fetching.

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You’ll gush over the story of a mush-dog that traveled through an Alaskan blizzard, in 50-degree-below temperatures, pulling a sled loaded with medicine for children stricken with diphtheria. Many have heard of Balto, the lead sled dog, but few know what happened to the husky after his heroic deed.

Prolific author/illustrator Meghan McCarthy brings the rest of the dog’s tale to light in “The Incredible Life of Balto,” another marvelous nonfiction book featuring the googly-eyed characters she’s made famous.

Balto’s journey catapulted the husky to fame, but his good fortune didn’t last. The conditions of his life deteriorated as he moved from owner to owner, each worse than the last. Magnificent Balto, the lifesaver, became a victim of neglect and abuse, himself in need of a savior.

Fortunately, one appears on the scene and Balto is restored to his glory days. It seems turnabout is fair play in this heartfelt story.

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Step into a zippy jeep and take the ride of your life with Chuck, a sensible border collie, and Tilly, a frou-frou poodle with the appetite of a truck driver. Join the precocious pals as they take a multi-state road trip to find out about legendary dog heroes from the Civil War in “Patriotic Pals, Tails of Civil War Dogs,” by Chris Stuckenschneider.

The pooches’ adventures begin in St. Louis, where quite by happenstance they learn about Sergeant Dick, a stocky mascot that witnesses an early skirmish in the war at Camp Jackson. A portrait of the dog in a museum there piques the pair’s interest — “soon they’re muzzle deep in research,” and anxious to discover more folk tales about canines that played an important role in the Civil War, or just served as their master’s best friend.

Chuck and Tilly’s antics spring off the page in colorful caricatures painted by Richard Bernal. But the mood of Bernal’s art is serious too, with sepia-toned, realistic paintings of Civil War heroes, both canine and human, Confederate and Union too.

A story within a story, combining fiction and fact, “Patriotic Pals” is sure to enlighten and entertain — and that’s no Chihuahua.

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The will to overcome obstacles that seem insurmountable make a hero of a border collie in “Buddy,” a novel by M.H. Herlong. It’s a riveting read that brings to light the difficulties a boy faces when Hurricane Katrina forces him to abandon his home, and a dog he adopts after his family accidentally hits it with their car.

Li’l T, almost 13, “started up wanting a dog the day after” he was born. A pooch isn’t in the family plan. A dog costs money, and Li’l T’s parents and grandpa have a hard enough time eking out a living in New Orleans.

Fate intervenes when a homeless dog veers into the path of their automobile. With help from their church friends, enough money is put in the collection plate to get the scraggly dog to the vet — but the news isn’t good — his leg will have to be amputated.

Lil’ T finally wears down his family, nursing the border collie he names Buddy back to health. But their newfound friendship is short lived when Hurricane Katrina hits.

“Buddy” is a standout dog story that offers more than the usual fare. It lays bare the catastrophic, emotional cost of losing your home and possessions — and of adjusting to living in a shelter, like an abandoned animal. “Buddy” is not to be missed.

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