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The Incredible Life of Balto



Last updated Thursday, December 8, 2011

Author: Meghan McCarthy
Date of Publication: 2011
ISBN: 0375844600
Grade Level: 3rd    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Dec. 2011

Synopsis: From Amazon.com:
Most people know the story of Balto, the world famous dog who led his dogsled team through a blizzard to deliver a lifesaving serum to the stricken people of Nome, Alaska, in 1925. Balto shot to instant stardom—a company named dog food after him, a famous sculptor erected a statue of him that stands in Central Park to this day, and the dog even starred in his own Hollywood movie. But what happened to Balto after the hoopla died down? With a lively, informative text and humorous, vibrant illustrations, Meghan McCarthy captures the extraordinary life of Balto beyond his days as a celebrity.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Who is Balto?
•  Have you seen the movie?
•  Can you think of any famous dogs, real or a fictional character? (Rin Tin Tin, Lassie, Max, Zero) Vocabulary
•  diphtheria - eradicated almost completely through vaccinations; an upper respiratory tract illness that results in severely swollen glands in the throat making it difficult to breathe
•  serum - medicine that triggers immune system to fight disease (not to be confused with truth serum)
•  epidemic - an outbreak of a disease
•  musher - driver of a sled pulled on snow by one or more dogs
•  relay - supply of dogs and sleds to cover a specific leg of a journey, also relay races
•  indomitable spirit (on statue's plaque) - refusal to be beaten, no matter how tough or big the obstacles seem to be
•  fidelity - being faithful
•  pelted - strikes
•  vaudeville - entertainment in which a variety of performers appeared

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Where is Nome, Alaska?
•  What details of the story can you see in the telegram and quarantine notice?
•  What does the lead dog do in a dog sled team?
•  What research did the author do when writing this non-fiction story?
•  Do you think Balto was a hero?Anyone else?


Craft ideas:
•  Draw your favorite scene from the book
•  Make a dog collar for Balto or your own dog out of construction paper.
•  Design a bottle for your own life saving medicine!

Special activities:
•  Play telephone game (instructions on the last page in Activities)
•  Play "actors" and "reporters".

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!