Swift

Overview

For as long as he could remember, Johnnie has longed to go off hunting with Pa and their dog, Swift. Now the much-anticipated day has arrived, but Johnnie's first hunt comes to an abrupt end when a grizzly bear attacks Pa, leaving him wounded and unable to walk. 'Listen to the dog,' his father urges him as the boy starts out into the treacherous forest, led by the knowledgeable Swift, on a daring rescue mission to save his father.

More than a book about an Alaskan boy and his ...

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Overview

For as long as he could remember, Johnnie has longed to go off hunting with Pa and their dog, Swift. Now the much-anticipated day has arrived, but Johnnie's first hunt comes to an abrupt end when a grizzly bear attacks Pa, leaving him wounded and unable to walk. 'Listen to the dog,' his father urges him as the boy starts out into the treacherous forest, led by the knowledgeable Swift, on a daring rescue mission to save his father.

More than a book about an Alaskan boy and his dog, Swift is a story of trust and courage, a perfect companion to Togo and Akiak.

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist
A riveting adventure story and a fine read-aloud choice, for older children, too. (Starred review)
Publishers Weekly

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.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature
A homesteading family in Alaska must hunt for their own meat, or they might not have enough food to eat throughout the winter. The adventure begins when Johnnie passes the gun course, and he is finally big enough to go hunting with his father and their dog, Swift. After a few days out in the wilderness, a grizzly bear attacks his father. Swift wards off the attack, but then Johnnie has to leave his injured father to seek help. Johnnie encounters his own life-threatening attack from the bear as he makes his way through the forest. He is saved with the help of his dog who then leads the way and keeps him from freezing as Johnnie continues on his trek to find help for his father. The Author’s Note explains how the author lived with a homesteading family in Alaska where he took notes and drew pictures. The beautiful and detailed oil paintings show the expanse and colors of the land while providing vivid visuals of the action of the text. This suspenseful and realistic story should appeal to more mature children, but the illustrations are rather violent for the younger reader. Reviewer: Vicki Foote
School Library Journal

Gr 2-4
Johnnie tells of his first bear-hunting expedition in the Alaskan Wilderness with his dad and their "knowledgeable" dog, Swift. On the third day of their trip, a grizzly crashes out of the woods and attacks them. When Johnnie's father shoots and misses the bear and instead breaks his leg, he tells his son to take the dog and go for help. The dramatic oil paintings are a blend of realistic and impressionistic style created with a thickly layered palette whose texture helps convey the haunting grandeur and loneliness of various landscapes of forest, tundra, mountains, and river; the cold is palpable. The compressed text describes in staccato style some exciting events; but it lacks character development and context. Some of the elements are not fully credible. At one point, Johnnie falls into an "icy" beaver pond, and later, he cannot make a fire because his matches are wet; it seems somewhat unbelievable that he can survive the cold and snow despite his frozen feet and frozen clothing. An endpaper map suggests an immensity of space but does not convey a realistic sense of either the distance or the amount of time that the boy travels. Still, the art is spectacular, and worth sharing with children.
—Kirsten CutlerCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780399233838
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/20/2007
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 789,135
  • Age range: 5 - 9 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.70 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert J. Blake was born and raised in New Jersey. As a boy he made "tons of drawings" and used up thousands of crayons. He says, "I even did a huge crayon mural on our hallway that was not artistically appreciated by my parents."

Sharing one large room with two older brothers was "total chaos," he recalls. "We had lots of animals - dogs, ducks, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, lizards, turtles, snakes, birds, fish, and even two flying squirrels. And, oh yes, a tarantula. I think my parents were afraid to come up to our room."

Mr. Blake now resides in New Jersey with his wife and son. He works in his studio, a renovated barn on his property. Mr. Blake says, "I would like to paint in every state in the United States and in every country in the world."

"I hope my books lend the reader a feeling, and emotion, a new point of view, a new way to look at something that they might not have experienced otherwise."

Robert J. Blake was born and raised in New Jersey. As a boy he made "tons of drawings" and used up thousands of crayons. He says, "I even did a huge crayon mural on our hallway that was not artistically appreciated by my parents."

Sharing one large room with two older brothers was "total chaos," he recalls. "We had lots of animals - dogs, ducks, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, lizards, turtles, snakes, birds, fish, and even two flying squirrels. And, oh yes, a tarantula. I think my parents were afraid to come up to our room."

Mr. Blake now resides in New Jersey with his wife and son. He works in his studio, a renovated barn on his property. Mr. Blake says, "I would like to paint in every state in the United States and in every country in the world."

"I hope my books lend the reader a feeling, and emotion, a new point of view, a new way to look at something that they might not have experienced otherwise."

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