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TOGO by Robert J. Blake


by Robert J. Blake & illustrated by Robert J. Blake

Age Range: 6 - 9

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-399-23381-4
Publisher: Philomel

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)