A mix of titles currently on my shelves.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Ordinary Dogs, Unusual Stories

Lots of people love dogs. Few of them, however, devote as much time, energy, thought, and affection to their canine friends as does Pam Flowers, author of a new book titled Ordinary Dogs, Extraordinary Friendships: Stories of Loyalty, Courage, and Compassion published by Alaska Northwest Books. This 144-page book for upper-elementary aged children (and dog lovers of any age) contains eleven short stories from Pam’s decades of friendship with numerous pets and working sled dogs. Each story relates the personality and behavior of her dogs to human situations and character traits in a relaxed, first-person voice that is both instructive and interesting.

As a former school librarian, I’ve read countless well-intentioned stories for children, written to teach them valuable lessons about life and how to behave. With few exceptions, they are dull and forgettable. I’m pleased to report that Pam’s tales are neither. Who can forget a true story about a curious polar bear accidentally driving Pam’s dog team? Or details like this: “Over the breeze came the faint smell of corn chips. In the pure Arctic air, untainted by other odors, that’s what my team smells like.”

 From "The Iditarod -- Teamwork Below Zero"

In the story “Good-Bye, My Friend,” Pam admits, “I’ve always been pretty sappy when it comes to dogs…every dog I ever knew easily won a place in my heart.” Pam’s relationships with her dogs are grounded not only in sentiment, but in the realities of their shared challenges and outdoor adventures. These true stories of mutual respect, affection, teamwork, and loyalty are genuinely heartwarming. One of those realities is the death of a canine friend, a subject often glossed over in nonfiction for children because it’s hard to talk about. Pam writes about it here with grace and honesty.

 From "The Bully"

Each chapter is illustrated with a line drawing, as well as spot illustrations, by Jason Baskin. The simple drawings capture the energy of the dogs and emotional essence of their situations. A glossary defines terms used in dog mushing and the Arctic.

Full disclosure: Pam and I co-wrote two books together, Alone Across the Arctic and Big-Enough Anna. Since then Pam has gone on to write several books for children: Ellie’s Long Walk and Douggie: The Playful Pup Who Became a Sled Dog Hero. Pam lives in Talkeetna, Alaska. For more information about Pam Flowers, visit


  1. I am so happy to have discovered your blog (and your books!) through the scbwi site. I wish I had found you when I was researching Alaska for THE 50 STATES (Wide Eyed Editions, Oct 2015) but will make good use of your thoughtful reviews as I research the follow-up, 50 CIITES. Thank you & Happy reading! Gabe

  2. It's great to hear from you! THE 50 STATES is sitting on a cart at my library, waiting to be catalogued. It's been calling to me (silently, of course, in the way that books do sometimes) to pick it up and investigate. I'll do that today. For your next book, will you be choosing one city from each state? Can you tell me which Alaska city it will be? I'm just curious.