School Library Journal Review
K-Gr 5-Togo is a spirited puppy, determined to be a sled dog even though his owner, Leonhard Seppala, does not think he has what it takes. He's small for a Siberian husky, and much too independent. When he is only eight months old, he breaks through a fence and finds his owner's team on a supply run; it takes only a day for him to prove himself as a musher. Soon the young dog is leading his team in races, and breaking speed records every time. When Togo is eight years old, Seppala is asked to make an emergency relay run to pick up a serum that can stop the diphtheria epidemic threatening the entire population of Nome, AK. Togo leads his team over 350 miles through storms, suffering terribly, and with almost no rest. While it is another dog, Balto, that became famous for the serum run of 1925, he actually led the final team in the relay, running 53 miles. Many people feel that Togo is an unsung hero, and so will readers, who will feel the terrible cold depicted chillingly in Blake's paintings. The urgency and desperation come across clearly in both the dramatic text and the full-page impressionistic paintings. The dogs are not anthropomorphized, but their expressions are haunting. Pair this first-rate historical adventure with Natalie Standiford's The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto (Random, 1989) or with Blake's Akiak: A Tale from the Iditarod (Philomel, 1997).-Susan Oliver, Tampa-Hillsborough Public Library System, FL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Gr. 2^-4. Can you name the most heroic sled dog in history? It's not Balto, as Blake points out; the team that Balto led covered only the final, 53-mile leg of the rescue mission that carried diphtheria serum to beleaguered Nome in 1925. Honors might more justly go to Balto's kennel-mate, Togo, lead dog of a team that carried the life-saving cargo 350 miles, through deadly weather and over dangerously weak ice. Blake takes a few liberties with the accompanying text, using some invented dialogue and lines such as, "But Togo didn't want to be a pet." But he paints a vivid word-picture of bitter, deadly conditions and the grueling effort required to surmount them, reinforcing it with dramatic art that brings out the textures of snow and fur, and the spirit of the small, indomitable dog as it forges across rugged, frozen landscapes. Blake concludes with a brief account of his on-site research for information; his compelling tribute is sandwiched between endpaper maps tracing the mission's entire route. --John Peters
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