The cover of this long picture book is a showstopper, with the entire spread showing just the face of a snowy dog with intense, pale-blue eyes, along with the single title word and the author’s name. Who could resist opening it to find out who Togo is? In a dramatic story based on a real event, Blake (Fledgling, 2000, etc.) recounts the historic rescue mission undertaken in 1925 Alaska by Leonhard Seppala and his lead sled dog, Togo. Seppala, owner of the fastest sled-dog team in Alaska, lived in Nome during an outbreak of diphtheria, and he was asked to travel by dogsled to a town 300 miles away to pick up serum to fight the diphtheria outbreak. Togo, a brilliant, perceptive dog, successfully led Seppala’s team during this mission, which was accomplished in just a few days. The dog that finished the journey, Balto, is the dog most children know, but Togo made that finish possible and the entire run inspired today’s Iditarod. Blake begins with the heartwarming story of Togo’s younger days, when he proved himself a worthy lead dog, followed by the dramatic, harrowing tale of the desperate rush for the serum. (“Diphtheria” and “serum” aren’t defined in the text, but their meanings should be clear.) Blake’s arresting oil paintings add greatly to the well-told tale, capturing the personality of the special dog. Some paintings show panoramic snow-covered vistas, others show the dogs in action, with thick white strokes of paint often representing the falling snow. A map on the endpapers enables the reader to follow the progress of the rescue mission, which they will—breathlessly. (author’s note) (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-399-23381-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2002


The wriggly narrator of Diary of a Worm (2003) puts in occasional appearances, but it’s his arachnid buddy who takes center stage here, with terse, tongue-in-cheek comments on his likes (his close friend Fly, Charlotte’s Web), his dislikes (vacuums, people with big feet), nervous encounters with a huge Daddy Longlegs, his extended family—which includes a Grandpa more than willing to share hard-won wisdom (The secret to a long, happy life: “Never fall asleep in a shoe.”)—and mishaps both at spider school and on the human playground. Bliss endows his garden-dwellers with faces and the odd hat or other accessory, and creates cozy webs or burrows colorfully decorated with corks, scraps, plastic toys and other human detritus. Spider closes with the notion that we could all get along, “just like me and Fly,” if we but got to know one another. Once again, brilliantly hilarious. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-06-000153-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Joanna Cotler/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2005



Bishop’s spectacular photographs of the tiny red-eyed tree frog defeat an incidental text from Cowley (Singing Down the Rain, 1997, etc.). The frog, only two inches long, is enormous in this title; it appears along with other nocturnal residents of the rain forests of Central America, including the iguana, ant, katydid, caterpillar, and moth. In a final section, Cowley explains how small the frog is and aspects of its life cycle. The main text, however, is an afterthought to dramatic events in the photos, e.g., “But the red-eyed tree frog has been asleep all day. It wakes up hungry. What will it eat? Here is an iguana. Frogs do not eat iguanas.” Accompanying an astonishing photograph of the tree frog leaping away from a boa snake are three lines (“The snake flicks its tongue. It tastes frog in the air. Look out, frog!”) that neither advance nor complement the action. The layout employs pale and deep green pages and typeface, and large jewel-like photographs in which green and red dominate. The combination of such visually sophisticated pages and simplistic captions make this a top-heavy, unsatisfying title. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-590-87175-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1999

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