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Ellie's Story (A Dog's Purpose Puppy Tales Series)

Ellie's Story (A Dog's Purpose Puppy Tales Series)

by W. Bruce Cameron

Hardcover(First Edition)

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From W. Bruce Cameron, the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling novel A Dog's Purpose, which is now a major motion picture!

Ellie's Story
is a heartwarming illustrated novel adapted for young readers from the beloved and New York Times bestselling A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron.

Ellie is a very special dog with a very important purpose. From puppyhood, Ellie has been trained as a search-and-rescue dog. She can track down a lost child in a forest or an injured victim under a fallen building. She finds people. She saves them. It's what she was meant to do.

But Ellie must do more. Her handlers—widowed Jakob, lonely Maya—need her too. People can be lost in many ways, and to do the job she was born to do, Ellie needs to find a way to save the people she loves best.

Ellie's Story is an inspiring tale for young animal lovers. Adorable black-and-white illustrations by Richard Cowdrey bring Ellie and her world to life. A discussion and activity guide at the end of the book will help promote family and classroom discussions about Ellie's Story and the insights it provides about humankind's best friends.

Winner of the 2017 Colorado Children's Book Award for Junior Novel and the Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780765374691
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 04/14/2015
Series: Dog's Purpose Puppy Tales Series
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 239,874
Product dimensions: 8.30(w) x 5.80(h) x 0.90(d)
Lexile: 620L (what's this?)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About the Author

W. BRUCE CAMERON is the New York Times bestselling author of A Dog's Purpose and A Dog's Journey. He lives in California.

Read an Excerpt

Ellie's Story

A Dog's Purpose Novel

By W. Bruce Cameron, Richard Cowdrey

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2015 W. Bruce Cameron
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7653-7469-1


The first thing I knew was my mother's smell and the taste of her milk.

I had to fight my way to her, struggling over and around the soft, fuzzy bodies of my brothers and sisters, to reach that milk and fill my empty stomach. I squirmed and pushed with my feeble legs, inching forward, until I could taste the warm sweetness spilling over my tongue.

In a few days my eyes were open and I could see my mother's dark brown face and the pale blue blanket that she lay on, though at first everything was very blurry.

Sometimes, when I felt lonely or cold or lost, I'd whimper, pressing closer to her. My brother and sisters always got confused and took my whimpers for signs of weakness. Then they'd jump on me. There were seven of them, all brown with black markings, and I couldn't understand why it was so hard for them to figure out who was going to be in charge around here.

When it wasn't Mother, it was going to be me. I was, in my opinion, the smartest puppy.

A woman with soft hands and a softer voice often came down a set of stairs to see us. On the first day my mother growled at her, just a little, and the woman was careful to stay back. But later my mother seemed to change her mind and decided that it was all right for the woman to pick us up, cuddle us, and hold us close.

She had an interesting smell, this woman. Something clean (a kind of soap), something delicious (that was food), and something that was just her. I didn't mind her picking me up—or not much. But I was relieved each time she laid me gently back down on the blanket beside my mother.

A man sometimes came down the stairs to look at us, too, and to bring a dish of food and a bowl of water for my mother. That water! The first time I went near the bowl to sniff at it, one of my brothers knocked into me from behind and I fell face-first into the bowl.

Cold! Water went up my nose and stung my eyes, and when I tried to whimper and let my mother know that I needed help water rushed into my mouth, too. It took all my strength to heave myself up out of that slippery bowl and shake my fur clean and dry. After that I stayed away from the water bowl as much as I could. My brother acted as if nothing happened, though it was clearly all his fault.

After a few weeks, when my legs were stronger, the man came down the stairs holding something big and brown. He set the brown thing down on the floor and gently picked up one of my brothers, popping him inside.

"In the box, buddy," the man said. "Don't worry. It won't be for long."

My brother yelped. I could hear him, but I couldn't see him! All of us started yipping and barking as the man picked us up, one by one, and put us where he had put my brother—in the box.

It was like being in a tiny room, with a floor and walls of something smooth and slippery. My tiny claws slipped and slid. They slipped and slid even worse when the man lifted the box into the air.

My brothers and sisters scrambled all over each other, trying to figure out what was happening. I stood on two sisters and hooked my paws over the edge of the box and peeked out. The man was climbing up the stairs, and my mother was trotting behind him. That made me feel better. We could not be going anywhere dangerous if Mother was coming.

"Whoops, back inside, girl," said the man. "Don't fall out."

He gently pushed my paws off the box's edge, and I landed on the same idiot brother who had knocked me into the water bowl. He chewed on my foot before I yanked it away.

The man carried us for a little while longer and then set the box down. One by one he and the woman lifted us out.

We were somewhere incredible. It was called Outside.

The light was the first thing. It was so bright I could barely see for several minutes. Then there was something strange under my paws—something springy and soft, like the blanket, but prickly. Grass! I bit it, to show it who was boss. It didn't bite back, so I figured that was settled. I was in charge of the grass.

And the smells! I had learned the smells of my mother and my littermates and the blanket where we had lived and of the woman and the man who came to visit us. But now the air was moving, blowing past me and tickling my nose with a million smells that I couldn't sort out. My brothers and sisters rushed past me, yelping, stumbling, falling on their faces, and rolling onto their sides. I stood still, with my nose in the air, trying to understand where I was.

The grass underfoot smelled sharp and fresh. There was another smell underneath that, dark and dense and rich. It smelled like something that would be good to dig. The moving air brought more smells from farther away—something smoky and tasty from inside the house, something sweet from the bushes alongside it, something harsh and sour and stinking that roared by, too fast, on the other side of a tall wooden fence.

And something mysterious and furry and alive, like me.

That smell was a grown-up dog in a pen. My mother trotted over to him, and they touched noses through a wire fence. I knew this other dog was male, like my brothers, and I sensed that he was important to Mother. Without knowing how, I knew this dog was my father.

"He seems like he'll be fine with the puppies," the man said to the woman.

"You going to be okay, Bernie? You want to come out?" Our father's name was Bernie. The woman opened his cage. He bounded out, sniffed at us, and then went over to pee on the fence.

We all galloped after him, falling over every minute but getting up again. Bernie put his face down and one of my brothers jumped up and bit at Bernie's ears. Very disrespectful! But he didn't seem to mind. He just shook his head, sending my brother rolling over.

Some of the other pups took that for an invitation and pounced on Bernie. He knocked a few of them gently aside, sniffed at the rest, and came over to me.

I didn't bite at him or jump on him, so I got to stay on my feet. But he put his nose down and sniffed me all over, then put a paw on top of me, just because.

I knew I should not fight back. I might have been in charge of my littermates, even if some of them had strange ideas about that. But this father dog, like Mother, was in charge of me. I let him squash me down into the soft, springy grass and hold me there for a few seconds before Bernie wandered off to let the man pet him and scratch behind his ears.

After that we did Outside every day. I learned that the dark, fascinating stuff under the grass was dirt. And I also learned how to make sure my brothers and sisters didn't get the wrong idea about me. They would creep up behind me and pounce or race across the yard to barrel into me, so I would have to snarl and show my teeth or roll over and over until I was on top. Then I'd walk away and later take the chance to sneak up on them.

It was funny how they didn't just accept that I was the boss. They'd wrestle and wriggle and try to squash me down with their tiny paws, the way Bernie had done with his big one. They were not Father or Mother, though, so I never let them get away with it. But they kept trying.

Bernie sometimes played with us a little, too, and the woman came out with funny-smelling things for us to chew on. "Here are your toys, pups," she'd say.

Then one day a new man came into the yard. He had different ideas about playing. First he clapped his hands loudly. One of my brothers yelped and ran to Mother. Several more of the puppies jumped back a few steps, and one whimpered. I was startled, too, but something told me there was no danger. The man picked up the ones who hadn't seemed scared and put us in a box, carrying us away to a different section of the yard.

One by one, he lifted us out. When it was my turn, he put me down on the grass and then he turned and walked away from me, as if he'd forgotten I was even there. I followed him, curious to see what he'd do next.

"Good dog!" he told me. A good dog, just for following him? This guy was a pushover.

Then the man took something out of his pocket. He opened it up and put the soft folds over me. "Hey, girl, can you find your way out of the T-shirt?" he asked.

I had no idea what was going on, but I didn't like it. The white cotton was all over the place, as if I were wrapped up in a blanket. I tried to fight it, showing it who was boss, just as I did with my littermates. That didn't work. I could scratch it or bite it, but it didn't go away. It just clung to me, all over my face, all over my body.

I tried to walk, figuring maybe I would get away from it. The T-shirt walked with me. I growled and shook my head hard. That helped a little. The cloth fell away from my face, and I got a glimpse of green grass near my tail.

My tail! That was it! The way to get out of this thing was to back up. I did that, shaking my head again to shuffle the shirt off me. In a few seconds I was out on the grass. The man was nearby, so I ran over to him for more praise.

The woman had come out into the yard to watch.

"Most of them take a minute or two to puzzle it out, but this one's pretty bright," the man remarked. He knelt down and took hold of me, flipping me over onto my back in the grass. I squirmed. It wasn't fair. He was so much bigger than I was!

"She doesn't like that, Jakob," the woman said.

"None of them like it. The question is, will she stop struggling and let me be the boss or will she keep fighting? I got to have a dog that knows I'm the boss," the man answered the woman.

I heard the word "dog," and it didn't sound angry. I wasn't being punished. But I was being pinned down. It was kind of like the way Bernie had pushed me down into the grass, the first day I had met him. And this man was bigger than me, the way Bernie was bigger. Maybe that meant this man was supposed to be in charge, the way Father was.

Anyway, I figured I didn't know what kind of game we were playing now, so I just relaxed. No more struggling.

"Good dog!" the man said again. I guessed his name was Jakob. He sure had some strange ideas on how to play with a puppy.

Next he took something flat and white from his pocket and crumpled it up. It made the most fascinating noise while he was doing that! I wished I could get a better look—and more than that, I wished I could get a taste. What was this new thing?

"Want it, girl? Want the paper?" Jakob said.

I wanted it! He moved it around in front of my face, and I chased it, snapping, trying to get a hold on it. I couldn't do it! My mouth was too small, and my head moved too slowly. Then the man flipped the thing into the air and I raced after it. Pounce! I landed on it with both my front paws and settled down to chewing it. Ha! Try to get it now!

It tasted interesting but not as good as I thought it would. It had been more fun when it was moving anyway. I picked it up and brought it back to the man, dropping it at his feet. Then I plopped my rear end into the grass and wagged my tail, hoping he'd get the hint and throw it again.

"This one," Jakob said. "I'll take this one."


Jakob scooped me up and carried me out of the yard. I was amazed. Outside was bigger than I had ever thought. It went on forever!

In front of the house, big, loud things zoomed past, smelling of metal and smoke and other sharp and unpleasant odors. I had no idea what these things were, but I was pretty sure they were dangerous. Jakob opened the back of one, and I squirmed against his chest and whimpered.

"It's okay, girl," Jakob said. "Just a quick ride in the truck. Don't worry about it. Okay? Just a truck."

Truck. His tones were soothing, but I was plenty worried. I didn't want to go anywhere in anything that smelled like this.

There was something like a box, only made out of metal, in the back of the truck. Jakob opened it up with one hand and with the other dumped me gently inside.

Then he left me. He left me!

This was not right. I was sure about it. Of course I didn't like the idea of being taken away from my mother and brothers and sisters, but something told me that it was the way things had to be. Dogs were supposed to be with people. Jakob was going to be my family now.

But that meant Jakob was supposed to be with me! He wasn't supposed to go far away and leave me in a cold metal box in the back of a loud, smelly truck!

I barked. I whimpered. I did everything I could to let Jakob know he had made a mistake and was supposed to come back. But he must not have heard me, because he didn't show up to take me out of the box. I heard a loud thump and then the metal box started to shake, and we were moving. It was just like being carried in a box out into the yard, my body rocking back and forth. I really didn't like this! The truck growled and roared and I was pretty sure it was going to eat me. Where was Jakob?

My frantic barking must have gotten through to him at last, because he came back and took me out of the cage when the truck finally stopped moving. "Not too bad, huh, girl?" he said to me.

He seemed awfully cheerful after what we'd just been through together. Still, I was so grateful that he had returned I didn't hold a grudge. I just rested against his chest as he carried me up several flights of stairs and into my new home.

There was a lot to explore. A kitchen, with fascinating smells and little doors that I couldn't open, even when I pawed at them. A living room, with a couch that smelled like Jakob and a box that made noise sometimes. A balcony, where I could sit with Jakob and look over houses and yards and trees and more zooming, loud things like the truck.

There was a bedroom, with a big bed that smelled like Jakob, too. I tried to climb up on it the first day, and Jakob firmly dumped me off. "No, girl. This is your bed," he said, and showed me a soft, furry circle on the floor. It felt a little like the blanket I used to sleep on with Mother and my littermates, but it didn't smell like them. It smelled empty and cold.

What I liked the best, though, was the park. Jakob took me there more than once that first day. There was more of the springy grass that was fun to run around on, and Jakob tossed some sticks for me to pounce on and bring back. Then he pulled a little round thing from his pocket and threw it for me. I chased it down and tried to get my tiny mouth around it.

Then a little animal darted past, shaking a strangely fuzzy tail. I dropped the ball immediately and dashed after it. This was much more fun!

Obviously the animal was made for chasing. It zigged and zagged across the grass and headed for a tree. To my astonishment, it went straight up the trunk! I tried it myself and fell over on my back. The animal sat on a high branch and laughed at me as I ran around the trunk yapping in frustration. Why wouldn't my paws take me up? The little animal had done it so easily!

Jakob came to sit beside me and scratch behind my ears. "Don't give up, girl," he told me. "Never give up. Now, I can't keep calling you girl. Elleya." I wondered what he was talking about. "It's Swedish for 'moose.' You're a Swedish shepherd, now." I knew he was talking to me, so I wagged, even though his words made no real sense. "Elleya, Elleya," he said, and moved a little away from me. "Come, Ellie, Come."

Pretty soon I started to recognize that word, "Come." It was one of Jakob's favorites. When he said it, I'd sometimes wander over to see what was going on and he'd pet me and give me something tasty from his hand. "Come" meant praise and petting and a treat, so pretty soon I always showed up for it. But my favorite words from him were "Good dog!" "Good dog!" always meant he would pet me, rubbing my fur until I wriggled from my toes to my tail with happiness. His hands smelled of oil and his truck and of papers and other people.

Jakob never seemed to get angry about anything, even when my little bladder signaled that it was full and let go all in one rush. When I did manage to get outside before anything happened, he gave me such praise that I decided I'd try to do it as much as possible, since it seemed to please him so much.

I wanted to make Jakob happy. I just wasn't sure how.


Excerpted from Ellie's Story by W. Bruce Cameron, Richard Cowdrey. Copyright © 2015 W. Bruce Cameron. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide

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Take the story from the page to the pavement with these fun and inspiring activities for the dog lovers in your family.

MAKE A “DOGS ARE AWESOME” POSTER. Inspired by the story, have children draw, paint, or glue magazine clippings, printed images found via parent-supervised web searches, or other visual art material onto a large sheet of cardboard or foam core. The poster may include images of dogs playing with people, dogs at work, even dogs in cartoons. Mount the finished work in a place of prominence in your home.

TRY AN OBSTACLE COURSE. As part of her training, Jakob takes Ellie through an agility course. Design an obstacle course for people. Choose a space in your backyard or nearby park. Stations might include running between traffic cones, jumping rope, or tunneling under a picnic blanket. Make signs explaining what course runners should do at each station. Be creative! Invite friends or neighbors to try the course. Consider a “parents-vs-kids” race or other fun challenge on the course.

MAKE A LEARNING LIST. Based on information from the book, collaborate with your child on a list of important “dos” for dog ownership and care. Consider listing things to look for in choosing a puppy, best practices for training young dogs, and ways to keep a growing dog feeling happy and purposeful.

TALK LIKE A DOG. Ellie’s Story is narrated in first person by Ellie the German Shepherd. This helps readers understand the dog’s point-of-view and is also a model for helping children see other people’s and animals’ perspectives. Invite your child to describe, using “I,” a few minutes in the life of his or her own pet. Or, invite your child to describe how you, a sibling, or another family member might understand the child’s actions in an exciting or confusing situation.

HELP OUT. Learn more about the work of search-and-rescue dogs at SARDUS (, find out how dogs help with literacy through the R.E.A.D. program (, visit your local ASPCA, or seek out other dog-friendly organizations in your community. Make a family plan to donate 2-4 hours (or more) supporting the great work of dogs.

WRITING activities
These Common Core–aligned writing activities may be used in conjunction with the discussion questions in the “Family” section above.

Ellie’s Story is narrated by Ellie, the German Shepherd. How does the author’s sensory descriptions (sound, sight, taste, touch, and smell) help readers connect with the dog’s viewpoint? What other techniques does the author use to create a believable dog’s voice for the narrative?

Communities and Relationships:
Using clues from the tale and your imagination, write a short biography for Jakob or Maya. What lead them to join the police force? Where did they discover their love for animals? What critical life experiences did they have just before meeting Ellie? What do you imagine for their future?

Text Type: Opinion Piece.
Write a one-page essay explaining why you think Jakob made a good choice in choosing Ellie as the best possible rescue dog from her litter.

Text Type: Narrative.
In the character of Maya, write several journal entries describing your dreams, doubts about, and plans to become Ellie’s new handler.

Research & Present: El Salvadoran Earthquakes.
Go to the library or online to learn more about the devastating earthquakes that hit El Salvador in 2001, and the role of rescue dogs in helping with recovery efforts. Use your research to create a PowerPoint or other multi-media style presentation to share with friends or classmates.

Research & Present: Rescue Dogs.
Go online to learn more about search-and-rescue dogs. (Hint: Begin your research at Create an informative booklet that describes the training, the types of rescues dogs can accomplish, and other facts. If possible, make copies of your booklet to distribute to others in your school or community.

Supports English Language Arts Common Core Writing Standards: W.3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.7; W.4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.7; W.5.1, 5.2, 5.3, 5.7; W.6.2, 6.3, 6.7; W.7.2, 7.3, 7.7

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Discussion Questions
Help your young reader get excited about this book by exploring key words and ideas from the story. This will help strengthen the connections children make as they begin to read.

This book is titled Ellie’s Story. What is a “purpose”? What types of roles do dogs play in your community? What do you think is a dog’s most important role?

What books have you read about dogs? Describe your favorite dog book, noting whether it was fiction or non-fiction, and what you liked best about the story.

Have you ever tried to train a dog or other pet? If so, what was the most surprising or challenging thing you learned about this process? If not, would you like to try dog training and what kind of dog (or other animal) might you like to train?

Discussion Questions
Some or all of the questions below may help launch family conversations or be useful preparation for the activities that follow.

Who narrates Ellie’s Story? Were you surprised when you realized the identity of the narrator? Why or why not?

In Chapter One, Jakob chooses Ellie from a litter of German Shepherds. What are some of the key qualities he appreciates her?

What is “Work” to Ellie? Describe the steps Jakob takes to teach Ellie to understand “Work” and, later, “Find.” How is “Play” a very important part of Ellie’s training process? Is play important for people, too? Explain your answer.

How does Jakob help Ellie conquer her fear of water? What rescue described in the story requires Ellie to deal with water? How does Ellie use her sense of smell to find a bad guy?

What actions does Ellie take in the story that show she is an extraordinary rescue dog?

Why does Ellie have to leave Jakob and go to live with Maya? How does she react to this transition? How is Ellie’s understanding of the change similar to, and different from, the way a human understands such events?

What challenges does Maya face as she works to become Ellie’s handler?

Ellie describes the different ways she is loved by Jakob, Maya, and other characters. Do these descriptions help to better understand the relationships your dog (or dogs you know) has with you and other members of your community? Explain your answer.

List some key search-and-rescue missions Ellie undertakes before the trip to El Salvador. What makes searching through the earthquake rubble in El Salvador so different from her police work in the United States? How does Maya realize this and find a way to help Ellie with this new work?

Why can’t Ellie return to “Work” after El Salvador? What does she do instead? What happens when Ellie and Jakob are reunited in the last chapter of the story? How did you feel when Jakob told Ellie, “you’re a good dog”?

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