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by Robert J. Blake
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Stumbled across this at the library looking for juvenile books on Alaska and only later realized Blake is the author and illustrator of Akiak, one of our favorite juvenile/children's picture books. The canine Swift helps our young narrator find help when, in the middle of nowhere and on his first hunting trip, his father's leg is broken by a grizzly bear. Certainly exciting and intended as a positive look at tough modern Alaskan homesteader. Parents may want to know that there are guns, from the first sentence, and they get used and that there is gore. My concern was the lack of questions. This isn't the 19th-century. I wanted to know why they were in the predicament they were in and whether it was a good idea or not. Instead of respect of the homesteaders, I'm left wondering what in the world they are doing there. ( )
A boy sets out with his father on his first hunting trip. Swift, their dog, accompanies them on their search for a bear. But bears can be dangerous - when disaster strikes, Johnnie must trust Swift to get him to help for his father.
This story is at first disconcerting - the characters appear to be contemporary, but the wilderness setting and the bear hunt for obviously needed food doesn't match. However, the author's afterword explains that this story is about homesteading families in Alaska. It's a fascinating little glimpse of the life of modern pioneers, which I hadn't heard of before.
The story is well-written with realistic reactions of the dog and people. The action moves swiftly and is shown not only in the taut style but also in vibrant paintings that accompany the text.
Verdict: This picture book is more suitable for older children, due to the length of the text and sometimes frightening story. Fans of heroic dog and adventure stories will be interested in this authentic look at the lives Alaskan homesteaders.
ISBN: 0399233830; Published September 2007 by Philomel; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library (not by me)
"now that he has grown up a bit and passed a gun course, Johnnie can finally join Pa and their dog, Switt, when they hunting for the family's winter food: bear...Children will relate to Johnnie, who makes mistakes through inexperience and learns from them...A riveting adventure story and a fine read-aloud choice, for older children, too."
Booklist September 15, 2007, page 63.
Johnny has wanted to help Pa and their dog Swift hunt for the winter's meat almost since he was born, but when a grizzly's lightning attack mangles Pa's leg, Johnny and Swift have to make their way through the forest and down the river to bring back help--and a wounded bear attacks with no warning.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)613.6909798 — Technology and Application of Knowledge Medicine and health Personal health and safety Personal safety and special topics of health Hygiene of Travel and Exploration
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