cover image Swift


Robert J. Blake, . . Philomel, $16.99 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-399-23383-8

Blake (Akiak: A Tale from the Iditarod ) offers another action-crammed dog story set in Alaska, his full-bleed oil paintings and his first-person text working in tandem to convey his plot's immediacy. Johnnie, the narrator, finally gets to join his father and Swift, the dog, on a hunting trip. Pa counsels his son, “It's about figuring out the bear before the bear figures out you.” On the very next page, a stealthy grizzly takes the party (and readers) by surprise: in a startling picture, the animal rears up to dominate the spread, its jaws open and nostrils flared, its claws bearing down on Swift. Pa fires his gun and the bear leaves, but not before wounding Pa. From this point the story becomes Johnnie's, as Pa dispatches him and Swift to get help, instructing Johnnie, “Listen to the dog.” In gripping scenarios, Johnnie pits himself against nature and, aided by Swift, triumphs. Blake's paintings, whether sharply defined close-ups or more impressionistic backgrounds, capture the drama of the adventure. Dog lovers will especially enjoy the authentic depiction of the remarkable bond between human and canine, the shared determination and mutual trust. Ages 5-up. (Sept.)