cover image The Incredible Life of Balto

The Incredible Life of Balto

Meghan McCarthy. Knopf, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-375-84460-7

Having previously highlighted high-profile animals in City Hawk: The Story of Pale Male and Seabiscuit the Wonder Horse, McCarthy turns to Balto, the famous sled dog, to explore his life after the spotlight stopped shining. After making an arduous journey to deliver medicine to combat diphtheria in Nome, Alaska, in 1925, Balto and his owner at first enjoy fame. But after a statue and a starring movie role, Balto's fortunes change when he's sold to a vaudeville act. Though McCarthy's caricature-styled acrylics at times seem incongruous for the subject matter%E2%80%94the googly eyes on both dogs and people may even elicit laughter in some scenes%E2%80%94they temper the grim parts of the tale. Straightforward narration keeps this picture-book biography moving toward its happy conclusion: "With the help of [a] Cleveland newspaper, word of Balto's and the other dogs' poor treatment spread. Children donated their pennies, people passed around collection hats at their jobs" in a successful bid to bring the dog team to a local zoo. It's an accessible introduction to the story of Balto, and a reminder of the fickle nature of fame. Ages 5%E2%80%938. (Aug.)