Dog lovers everywhere loved W. Bruce Cameron’s two books, “A Dog’s Purpose” and “A Dog’s Journey.” Now he is introducing a new generation of readers to his dog books with his newest story, “Ellie’s Story,” about a German Shepherd raised to be a Search and Rescue dog.
It’s one of the stories from the original book, adapted here for younger readers. It’s touching and heartwarming. It would be a wonderful read aloud for a classroom or a great gift for any animal lover.
The story begins when Ellie, a young puppy, is chosen by Jakob to be trained to work in Search and Rescue. It follows and explains how the dogs are trained. Kids will be very interested in how to train a dog — make it fun and exciting. And when Jakob is injured, Ellie goes to live and work with Maya, another police officer. In between, Ellie’s life is filled with saving people — from young children who wander away from their parents to older adults who suffer from dementia and get lost.
The story also studies the emotions and lives of Ellie’s two human partners. Both human characters are very different and good discussions could be made about how the differences affect Ellie and their work. What character traits does one need to have to work in Search and Rescue? Physical traits?
Other questions that teachers can use to engage the students in the author’s craft is to have the students study how Cameron wrote the story from the dog’s point of view in first person narrative. How was the dog’s narrative different from other first person narratives they might have read? What made it seem specifically that of a dog?
In fact, at the end of the book there is a Reading and Activity Guide. It’s aimed at ages eight to twelve (grades 3 – 7), which seems about right. While third graders who are good readers might be able to read the story and understand it, older readers (fifth grade and up) will better be able to understand the nuances of the relationships between the adults. The questions and activities are quite well done and there are some connecting research projects (about the earthquake in El Salvador) that might interest students.
Make a point of visiting Cameron’s website and watching the video of his dog “interviewing” him. Especially great is the question about his favorite breed. Spoiler alert: His favorite breed is rescue!
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher, Starscape, for review purposes.
Follow the National Book Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.
If you would like to continue receiving book reviews, including information about author appearances, author interviews and giveaways, please click the “Subscribe” icon. It’s free and anonymous. Thank you for reading, and thank you for sharing this article with others.