The Children's Book Compass

A True Story

Posted on: June 21, 2010

Herbert: The True Story of A Brave Sea Dog by Robyn Belton. (2010).  Candlewick Press.  Grades 2 to 6.  Unpaged. Nonfiction.

The students in my 4th, 5th and 6th grade classes used to love hearing the true stories from the newspaper or, even better, nonfiction accounts in books about real animals.  Frosty: A Raccoon to Remember was a favorite read aloud.    Herbert: The True Story of A Brave Sea Dog is another story that children will savor.  Herbert, a small dog, lives in New Zealand with Tim and his family.  Tim and his mother drive to a cottage on the coast while his father and Herbert  take a small boat through treacherous ocean waters to get to the cottage.  Herbert falls overboard when the boat encounters bad weather.  Tim’s father doesn’t notice until it is too late to turn back.  The next day, Tim and  his father go back to search for Herbert.  They find him!  Herbert had been paddling around the swift ocean currents for thirty hours!   Belton captures the drama and emotions of the story in short, clear sentences.  The softly colored illustrations with an emphasis on  the multiple shades of the ocean waters accent the story and provide pockets of comfort in between the harrowing parts of the story. There is a wealth of information provided on both the front and back  endpapers including a map of the area, photos of Tim and Herbert, an article that shows the hazards of the ocean pass where Herbert was lost,  a newspaper article about the event, the “Iron Dog Award” Herbert received, letters and telegrams from admirers.

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