Strongheart: The World’s First Movie Star Dog

Emily Arnold McCully. Holt, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8050-9448-0
As she did in Wonder Horse, McCully offers a concise, evocative account of a talented, real-life animal. Raised as a police dog in Germany (“He was bred to be alert, brave, strong, and perfectly loyal”), Etzel was brought to the U.S. in 1920, before the heydays of Rin Tin Tin or Lassie. He was adopted by Larry Trimble, a Hollywood movie director and animal trainer, and his screenwriter wife, who had been searching for the right dog to feature in a silent film. The couple taught the disciplined dog how “to learn to relax and have fun,” gave him the screen name of Strongheart, and cast him as the lead in The Silent Call, the first movie to star a dog. McCully’s watercolors (and the story in general) focus more on Strongheart’s evolution into a dog who can enjoy playing (while still fiercely defending his turf) than on the filming of The Silent Call or Strongheart’s later movies. An author’s note offers backstory for this heartwarming tale, and film reel–style endpapers replicate a few of Strongheart’s on-screen moments. Ages 4–8. Agent: Susan Cohen, Writers House. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/06/2014
Release date: 11/11/2014
Genre: Children's
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