The Incredible Life of Balto

This post is part of Nonfiction Monday 
hosted today by Capstone Connect

(pub. 8.9.2011)  40 pages 

A True Tale with A Cherry On Top

A uthor and illustrator: Meghan McCarthy

C haracter: Balto, a famous Alaskan dog
O verview from the jacket flap: 
         "Most people know the story of Balto, the world-famous dog who led his sled team through a blizzard to deliver a liefesaving 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 New York's 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." 
T antalizing taste: 
       "Sadly, Balto and the team were sold again, this time to a man who ran a sideshow.  There Balto and the others were all but forgotten.  For a dime, people could go into a room and see the once-celebrated dogsled team."

and something more:   As a author of narrative nonfiction picture books, I was fascinated by Megan McCarthy's discussion of her research experiences and how she dealt with contradictory accounts regarding Balto, including what color fur he had.  As she explains in her "Detective Work" section at the back of The Incredible Life of Balto, "No matter where information comes from, it gets filtered through many perspectives over time.  As a nonfiction writer, I make it my job to take all of the information and piece it together like a giant jigsaw puzzle.  But there's more to it than that.  I like to choose subject matter that hasn't been covered before or shine a new light on a known topic."  Yes!  A true tale with a cherry on top, as a I see it.
         Meghan explains her focus for this book: "Many children's books about Balto tout him as a hero, but none mentions the fact that he was essentially abandoned, sold off, and shown as a live attraction in a dime show.  What inspired me about Balto's story was the happy ending after all his struggles.  I knew that the whole story needed to be told." 
         Meghan's student activities included in the book remind me of my high school journalism class.  Unbeknownst to us, one day our wonderful teacher, Mrs. Hallenbeck, asked two students to argue and push and shove right before class began.  And after we learned that it was a staged argument, we had to write everything we had seen and heard --- we ended up with a roomful of different reports.  It certainly made an impression on us regarding the reliability of "eyewitness" reports.

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