Incredible Animal Adventures

Incredible Animal Adventures

by Jean Craighead George

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Balto the sled dog raced over the Arctic to bring life-saving medicine to an Alaskan town stricken with diphtheria. Sugar, an ordinary house cat with an extraordinary sense of direction, traveled 1,500 miles on a cross-country odyssey in search of her human family. And Koko stunned the scientific world by learning sign language—and told us what it's like to be

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Balto the sled dog raced over the Arctic to bring life-saving medicine to an Alaskan town stricken with diphtheria. Sugar, an ordinary house cat with an extraordinary sense of direction, traveled 1,500 miles on a cross-country odyssey in search of her human family. And Koko stunned the scientific world by learning sign language—and told us what it's like to be a gorilla.

These are just a few of the inspiring, true-life stories of ten remarkable animals and the feats that made them famous, as only acclaimed naturalist and Newbery Award–winning author Jean Craighead George could tell them. Now available in a chapter book edition featuring beautiful line art by Donna Diamond, here is an irresistible collection for newly independent readers.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Susan Hepler
This edition of "Animals Who Have Won Our Hearts" (l994 and now out of print), has been reissued with new drawings. Ten short vignettes explain the true-life stories behind Balto, Smokey Bear, and Punxatawney Phil, as well as of less well-known animal such as the fastest horse in the old West, the freeing of whales trapped in the ice, and Lewis and Clark's faithful dog Seaman. The stories will cause readers to marvel at the resourcefulness of animals and encourage respect for animal intelligence. George does not blunt her language for this age group, but the short format and the compelling truth of the stories make them suited for less-able older readers, small group reading in upper elementary classrooms, or anyone seeking a high-interest selection of stories about animals.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.18(d)
930L (what's this?)
Age Range:
7 - 10 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


Balto, a half-wolf, half-Malamute sled dog, trotted head down in the darkness of a stinging blizzard. Behind him his ten teammates kept pace as he guided them into Nome, Alaska, and down a deserted street to the hospital.

"Halt!" Musher Gunnar Kasson croaked through ice-burned lips. Balto dropped into the deep snow at the door of the hospital. Kasson sank to his knees beside him. With tears welling from his near-blinded eyes, hands shaking from exhaustion, he pulled sharp chunks of ice from Balto's bleeding paws. "Balto," Kasson whispered into his neck fur. "Damn fine dog!"

It was 5:30 a.m. on February 2, 1925. Balto had saved lives.

The people of Nome were stricken with diphtheria, a deadly disease. They were in desperate need of the serum that would stop the "black death" that was killing a person a day in the sub-arctic town. When the railroad train carrying the serum had become snowbound in Nenana, 660 miles away, and the planes could not take off, the U.S. Signal Corps sent out a call for dog teams.

Mushers from miles around, including Gunnar Kasson, responded. (Mushers are the men who drive sled dog teams.) They knew the assignment was dangerous, but they brought their strongest and most intelligent dogs to the snowbound outposts along the route to Nome. At one post after another, a team would pull in, the serum would be passed on, and another team would pull out.

The relay ran day and night for four days. Then Charlie Olson and his team of seven pulled into Bluff, 67 1/2 miles from Nome, in a roaring blizzard. He handed Gunnar Kasson the serum and warned him about the winds and cold.

At first Kasson decided towait out the storm. But at ten o'clock that night, the blizzard showed no sign of stopping or even letting up. Kasson knew lives were at stake. He and his dogs took off into the icy tempest.

The next relay point was 34 miles away. As Balto led his team across the Topok River, an 80-mile-an-hour wind struck like a railroad engine and lifted clouds of snow into the air. Neither the dogs nor Kasson could see.

But Balto never hesitated. He trotted on, following his own internal compass that guided him around drifts and out onto an ice-covered lagoon.Near the shore, Kasson sensed trouble. "Haw," he called. Obeying reluctantly, Balto ran to the left, off the trail, and splashed into an overflow of water. Wet feet meant crippled dogs. In desperation Kasson drove the team into soft snow to dry their paws'and was instantly lost in whiteness.

But Balto kept going. Picking his way, and making intelligent decisions, he trotted on at a steady pace. Twice the sled overturned and the dogs tangled. Twice Kasson righted the sled, straightened the traces, and let Balto lead the way. Fortunately, as they crossed Norton Sound, the wind got behind them. They covered the next 12 1/2 miles to Port Safety in eighty minutes.

At the relay station, the lights were out. The musher and his team were asleep. Time would be lost waking them. Twenty-one miles away people were dying. Kasson made a decision. His dogs were running well. "Hup! Hup!" he called, and Balto kept going.

Along the seacoast the snow stopped. Kasson could see again. Two of his dogs were stiffening up. The temperature was thirty-six degrees below zero Fahrenheit. He stopped to quickly make rabbitskin boots for the dogs, and went on.

At last they pulled into Nome, exhausted but undaunted. The dog relay teams had completed in five and a half days a trip that usually took the mail train more than twenty-five days. The next morning Balto's name appeared on the front page of every major newspaper in the United States. He was praised on the floor of Congress. Invitations for personal appearances poured in. Balto and Kasson toured from California to New York, stopping in big and little towns amid cheers and fanfare.

Balto has not been forgotten. His statue, made by R. G. Roth, stands in New York City's Central Park. Under Balto's name are these words:

Dedicated to the indomitable spirit of the sled dogs that relayed antitoxins 660 miles over rough ice, across treacherous waters, through Arctic blizzards from Nenana to the relief of stricken Nome in the Winter of 1925.

Incredible Animal Adventures. Copyright � by Jean George. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Meet the Author

Jean Craighead George wrote over one hundred books for children and young adults. Her novel Julie of the Wolves won the Newbery Medal in 1973, and she received a 1960 Newbery Honor for My Side of the Mountain. She continued to write acclaimed picture books that celebrate the natural world. Her other books with Wendell Minor include The Wolves Are Back; Luck; Everglades; Arctic Son; Morning, Noon, and Night; and Galapagos George.

Donna Diamond has illustrated numerous children's books, including The Day of the Unicorn by Mollie Hunter and Riches by Esther Hautzig, as well as many book jackets. She lives in Riverdale, NY.

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