War Dogs: Churchill and Rufus

War Dogs: Churchill and Rufus

by Kathryn Selbert

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Winston Churchill, the prime minister of England during World War II, was one of the greatest wartime leaders of the modern era. While he is often likened to the English bulldog due to his tenacious personality and even his physical resemblance to the breed, Mr. Churchill was actually a devoted poodle owner and held quite an affinity for his miniature poodle, Rufus,… See more details below

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Winston Churchill, the prime minister of England during World War II, was one of the greatest wartime leaders of the modern era. While he is often likened to the English bulldog due to his tenacious personality and even his physical resemblance to the breed, Mr. Churchill was actually a devoted poodle owner and held quite an affinity for his miniature poodle, Rufus, who withstood the trials of World War II by his owner’s side.

Readers follow Rufus and Winston’s friendship through major events in World War II—from the bombings of London and the invasion of Normandy to post-war reconstruction. Secondary text includes quotes from Churchill himself—taken from his rousing speeches to the people of England and to the world. Backmatter includes a timeline of World War II, an author’s note about Churchill’s pets, as well as a short biography, quote sources, and a list of recommended resources for further study.

In her debut picture book, Kathryn Selbert has created a unique look at a significant historical figure and period in world history.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Selbert’s debut illuminates the private and public personas of Winston Churchill in the thick of WWII. A warm, gentle side of his personality is evident through his interactions with his tan poodle, Rufus. Soft acrylic and collage illustrations capture the bond between the two, with Rufus looking on as the prime minister delivers a radio address at the House of Commons, accompanying his master while he surveys damage from German bombs, and helping Churchill “keep his spirits up” as he works with his allies to plan the invasion of Normandy. Quota­tions from Churchill’s speeches, set apart from the rest of the text, underscore his eloquence and aptitude as a diplomat. Selbert’s concise narrative addresses bombings, military operations, and rebuilding efforts in way that’s straightforward, but not frightening; after a nighttime raid (“Their home is under attack. The city smells of fire”), a somber wordless spread shows the blacked-out city of London shrouded in smoke, the outline of St. Paul’s cathedral barely visible. A WWII time line and biographical anecdotes about Churchill conclude this revealing dual portrait of a devoted pet owner and resolute politician. Ages 7–10. (Feb.)
Children's Literature - Sharon M. Himsl
The author writes about two real "war dogs," Great Britain's Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his beloved pet poodle Rufus. During World War II, Winston (also known as the "British Bulldog") lived in a secret underground bunker in London with war office staff, his wife Clementine, and Rufus. Selbert describes Winston's busy life during the war. Writing speeches to deliver before the House of Commons, following the war's progress, and meeting with advisors were among his many duties. Rufus was Winston's faithful companion and best friend throughout all and rarely left his side. He listened to Winston's deepest concerns about the war. He was there when London was bombed and walked with Winston in the aftermath, surveying the damage. Then he waited faithfully for Winston's return as he met with leaders in America and Russia on how to end the war. D-Day, the Invasion of Normandy, and the end of the war came, and Rufus returned to the countryside with Winston to rest. Selbert gently touches on London's worst moments during the war, including the bombings that took lives and destroyed its buildings by fire. She then shows the aftermath of the war, when Londoners began to rebuild their city. Illustrations are rich in color, vivid and lifelike, but thoughtful of younger eyes. Rufus is shown on most pages, moving the story forward. A timeline is provided at the end, as well as a short biography about Winston and Rufus. This is a good introduction to World War II history for young readers, but adults will need to explain the events as they unfold. Reviewer: Sharon M. Himsl
Kirkus Reviews
An introductory look at Winston Churchill and his notable place in British history uses a clever narrative device that focuses on his miniature poodle, Rufus. Churchill was often compared to a bulldog due to his tenacity, and one of his nicknames was the British Bulldog. The book's title refers to both Churchill and his beloved pet, who accompanied the great leader throughout the war years. The touching story follows Churchill from 1940-45, summarizing his work leading the war effort in England with a succinct and accessible text. Evocative illustrations in acrylic and collage incorporate short quotations from Churchill, designed to look like typewritten notes pinned to the pages. The illustrations do a remarkable job of conveying war-torn London, with one striking, wordless spread showing London in blackout mode, the shadow of St. Paul's looming above. At war's end, Churchill and Rufus are shown from the back, sitting near their country home, "two war dogs" resting at last. By focusing closely on Churchill and his pet, Selbert effectively provides a starting point for children to begin to understand the complexities of World War II. The combination of thoughtful design, compelling illustrations and a winsome canine companion make this beginning biography stand out. (timeline, afterword, bibliography) (Informational picture book. 6-12)
School Library Journal
Gr 1–4—One thing that may have helped Churchill through the difficult World War II years was the company of his miniature poodle, Rufus. Taking a child's (or dog's) eye view, the book focuses on the prime minister's days as he worked in a reinforced underground bunker for safety during the Blitz. When he went on walks to assess the damage, the illustrations show destroyed buildings but not injured people or bodies. When he left to plan D-Day with Roosevelt and Stalin, Rufus guarded the bunker and awaited his return. World War II is covered in a compressed manner. Major points are mentioned but not in detail. Quotations from Churchill appear as small notes "thumbtacked" to the larger spreads. The author includes detailed notes about Churchill's life in general and his poodles in particular. A time line of World War II events provides historical context to the story. The acrylic and collage illustrations are primarily rendered in gentle earth tones. The resulting book is historically accurate, interesting, and appropriate for young children.—Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA

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Product Details

Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
10.40(w) x 9.60(h) x 0.40(d)
930L (what's this?)
Age Range:
7 - 10 Years

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