Painter and Ugly

Robert J. Blake, Philomel, $16.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-399-24323-3
Like Blake's earlier work, including Togo and Akiak, this story celebrates the excitement of sled-dog racing and the dramatic landscape of the far north. Blake focuses on the friendship that develops between two sled dogs owned by a boy named Jake: "Wherever you saw Painter, there you saw Ugly.... If Ugly howled at the moon, Painter sang harmony." After the two are separated in a robbery and claimed by different young sled-dog mushers, Painter hunts ceaselessly for his friend until it's time for the Junior Iditarod sled-dog race, when his nose tells him that Ugly is out there somewhere among the dog teams. The sequence of events that leads to their reunion hurtles along breathlessly ("Painter leaped into the air when the team sprinted into view—Ugly was the lead dog!"), and the moment itself is portrayed in a joyous, wordless close-up. Blake paints the dogs' heavy coats and eager faces in painstaking detail, and does a notably good job of narrating from a dog's point of view. His portrait of this specialized world will lure even those who have never been part of it. Ages 5–8. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/08/2010
Release date: 01/01/2011
Genre: Children's
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