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The Bravest Dog Ever by Natalie Standiford

July 1, 2010

Children’s Book Review: The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto

Balto Most Famous Dog Book ReviewThis is a book for beginning readers, appropriate for first through third grade. It is one of the Step into Reading Series by Random House.

When my youngest son was in first and second grade, it was hard to find books that really appealed to his sense of adventure. And like myself, my children gravitate toward stories based in fact. It makes it all the more valuable to us to know the characters we are reading about are real people – in this case a real Alaskan sled dog.

Balto was the lead sled dog for famous musher, Gunnar Kasson, during the early mining days of Alaska when travel by sled dog teams was common.  Balto had a reputation for intelligence, stamina, and faithfulness. Although the subject matter appeals to adults, this book is a simple and heartwarming version for young children.

In the winter of 1925 diphtheria hit Nome, Alaska. The required medicine to halt an epidemic was hundreds of miles away. In winter months travel into Nome was problematic. Travel by plane was impossible in the extreme cold.  It was decided to ship the medicine by train to the end of the line. From there, travel by dog teams was the only option.

Time of was the essence for the sick of Nome, and the people waited anxiously as the sleds holding the medicine left from Nenana, 674 miles to the south. The trip was expected to take 15 days under good weather conditions. The teams and mushers pushed themselves through blizzards, with Balto leading his team for the last two legs of the run. Balto was forced to run twice as far as planned, but he managed to cover long and difficult distances in a surprisingly short time.

The people of Nome were astounded to receive the medicine just five days after the teams took up the race. The people of Nome were saved from an epidemic.


The subject of serious, and potentially fatal illness is covered  “Without the medicine the children would die. Without the medicine many other people in Nome would get diphtheria and die too.” Pg 12

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