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The Incredible Life of Balto by Meghan…
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The Incredible Life of Balto

by Meghan McCarthy

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Lively, inspiring story about a famous pooch. Includes an informative and interesting author's note. ( )
  Sullywriter | Apr 3, 2013 |
The famous story of the underestimated heroic dog that delivers serum in order to help with a diphtheria breakout, and what happens after his fame. I saw this a bit as a sequel to the original story, which I really enjoyed. After his stardom, he ends up being sold to a performance show, and is treated very poorly. A man who goes by the name of Kimble helped raise money to put him in a better place. He raised 2,000 to save him, which in 1927 is much more than it is today. The heroic deed of this man is the heart warming part of the story, he fights to raise money for the believed Balto to get what he truly deserves. ( )
  BarrettOlivia | Sep 7, 2012 |
The Incredible Life of Balto by Meghan McCarthy

The Text: McCarthy tells the well-known story of Balto, the sled dog who saved the citizens of Nome by bringing diphtheria serum. But do we really know the story? Careful research reveals Balto as the inexperienced dog, surprisingly chosen to lead the team on the last leg of the race to Nome. Balto became famous, a statue was erected to him in Central Park, he met celebrities, a movie was made about him...but then Balto was sold. He was abused and shown as a sideshow freak until a businessman named George Kimble put together a fundraising campaign to purchase the famous Balto and his sled dog team. Balto spent the rest of his life happily at the Brookside Zoo in Chicago.

The Illustrations: Meghan McCarthy's pop-eyed illustrations show the people and places that Balto encountered throughout his tumultuous life. The paintings are in subdued shades of brown and blue and include paintings of photographs and newspaper articles.

The Extras: The author includes a "Detective Work" section, where she talks about her research, looking for the real story of Balto and what happened after his famous trek. Information on the other dogs and sled drivers is included, and there are quotations from them. She examined photographs and descriptions to determine Balto's actual appearance and coloring. Activities on researching past events are included and a bibliography of books and newspaper articles (and one radio show). The end papers are illustrated with a map of the area covered by the sled dogs.

Verdict: It's interesting to see an account of Balto that attempts to set the record straight on this confusing historical event. However, there's a lot of confusing speculation in the book - the contrast between the presentation of "facts" in the story and the author's discussion of how unreliable those facts are is jarring. While I enjoyed McCarthy's illustrations in Pop! The Invention of Bubblegum, they really didn't fit this story; when it is so focused on finding the truth behind the story, seeing the artist's imagined pictures of how things might have looked is incongruous. A good idea, but too many discordant elements.

ISBN: 978-0375844607; Published August 2009 by Knopf; Borrowed from the library
  JeanLittleLibrary | Jan 15, 2012 |
Richie's Picks: THE INCREDIBLE LIFE OF BALTO by Meghan McCarthy, Knopf, August 2011, 40p., ISBN: 978-0-375-84460-7

THE INCREDIBLE LIFE OF BALTO is the picturebook true story of a sled dog from Alaska who became amazingly famous; was soon thereafter forgotten and neglected; and was later rediscovered and saved from further neglect and mistreatment thanks to a public fundraising campaign.

Balto was the lead dog on a dogsled team that was instrumental in saving lives in 1925, when a shipment of medicine was desperately needed in blizzard-bound Nome, Alaska to combat a deadly epidemic of diphtheria. With no alternative method of delivery available in those days, Balto led the team of dogs and their owner for many miles through deep, blinding snow to successfully deliver the medicine.

This made Balto famous. He modeled for a statue that still stands in New York City's Central Park, and he was the four-legged star of a silent movie. But then the dogs were sold, first to an owner who presented them in a vaudeville show and, then, to another owner who ran a sideshow and didn't treat them well. Things again turned around for Balto and his teammates when a Cleveland businessman successfully spearheaded a public campaign to buy the dogs and move them to where they would be provided better care.

The danger and daring nature of Balto's historic feat make this an exciting story. Meghan McCarthy has a very recognizable and kid-friendly illustration style that makes this story really fun. Together, these qualities, by themselves, make this a must-have book.

But this is just the beginning of why I choose to write about THE INCREDIBLE LIFE OF BALTO.

It was Balto's feat and fame that inspired the present-day Iditarod --promoted as "The Last Great Race on Earth" -- in which dogsled teams cover 1,150 miles of Alaskan trails over a couple of weeks. Part of the Iditarod race covers the same trails that Balto followed. So this book provides a connection to my beloved buddy Gary Paulsen, the award-winning author who has run the Iditarod several times.

I've heard plenty of times over the course of my life that we live in a throw-away society. Some try to make it sound as though things were better in the "old days." But it takes just a little bit of studying history to realize that this is not true. Just as we see Balto being "thrown away" once his 15 minutes of fame has passed, we as a society seem to have always thrown away people (and principles) just as easily as we throw away an outgrown frock or toy.

Over the past 78 years, since Franklin Delano Roosevelt became President the same year that Balto died, and -- at the insistence of Labor Secretary Frances Perkins -- began setting up a societal safety net for the poor and elderly and unemployed, there has been an ever-present tension between two opposing forces in our country. On one side are those who support the use of public monies for helping others who are old or poor or under-educated and those who, to quote my hero Mario Cuomo, "believe that the wagon train will not make it to the frontier unless some of the old, some of the young, some of the weak are left behind by the side of the trail."

And so I am also a big fan of THE INCREDIBLE LIFE OF BALTO because I believe this true story about caring for others will help develop empathy in impressionable young people who don't always get the best modeling in this regard.

Finally, I love this book because I have always been fascinated by history and by change. Ever since my eighth grade American history teacher shared her first-hand experience about daily life in America during World War II -- the shortages and the rationing coupons and the recycling and the blackouts -- I have never gotten enough of looking at the similarities and differences between Then and Now. And so, I figure that there are plenty of kids out there that will get a kick out of how things were different eighty-five years ago. Just like I do.

Richie Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.com
BudNotBuddy@aol.com
Moderator http://groups.yahoo.com/group/middle_school_lit/
Moderator http://groups.yahoo.com/group/EcolIt/ http://slisweb.sjsu.edu/people/faculty/partingtonr/partingtonr.php ( )
  richiespicks | Jun 4, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375844600, Hardcover)

Most people know the story of Balto, the world famous dog who led his dogsled team through a blizzard to deliver a lifesaving serum to the stricken people of Nome, Alaska, in 1925. Balto shot to instant stardom—a company named dog food after him, a famous sculptor erected a statue of him that stands in Central Park to this day, and the dog even starred in his own Hollywood movie. But what happened to Balto after the hoopla died down? With a lively, informative text and humorous, vibrant illustrations, Meghan McCarthy captures the extraordinary life of Balto beyond his days as a celebrity.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:05:32 -0400)

Most people know the story of Balto, the world famous dog who led his dogsled team through a blizzard to deliver a lifesaving serum to the stricken people of Nome, Alaska, in 1925. Balto shot to instant stardom; a company named dog food after him, a famous sculptor erected a statue of him that stands in Central Park to this day, and the dog even starred in his own Hollywood movie. But what happened to Balto after the hoopla died down? With a lively, informative text and humorous, vibrant illustrations, Meghan McCarthy captures the extraordinary life of Balto beyond his days as a celebrity.-- Provided by publisher.… (more)

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