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The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto

Last updated Monday, December 12, 2016

Author: Natalie Standiford
Illustrator: Donald Cook
Date of Publication: 1989
ISBN: 0833545361
Grade Level: 4th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Dec. 2016

Synopsis: Chronicles the fascinating true-life adventure of Balto, the dog who traveled more than fifty miles of snow-covered terrain to bring medical relief to the children of Alaska. Donald Cook's full-color illustrations are expressive for this story.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  What brave thing do you think Balto did?
•  Do you have any pets that keep you safe?
•  Have you been anywhere with lots of snow?


•  Diphtheria - a serious sickness that makes breathing very difficult
•  Frontier - a distant area where few people live
•  Blizzard - a severe snowstorm
•  Snowdrifts - piles of deep snow created by wind
•  Skid - to slide sideways
•  Hitch - to attach or fasten with a hook or knot

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  What kind of dog is Balto?
•  Have you ever been really sick? What was it like?
•  This story took place in 1925. Is it easier to get medicine now?
•  Can you think of ways Balto kept Gunnar safe?
•  Who do you know that is brave?

Craft ideas:
•  Make a Balto puppet using a paper bag. Have kids cut out a face, ears, and legs and glue onto the paper bag. See Pinterest for examples.
•  Draw a picture of the brave person you know.
•  Make a holiday card.
•  See ideas or examples on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/readingtokids/december-2016-winter-and-the-spirit-of-giving/

Special activities:
•  Talk about the wilderness in Alaska, and how it's different than California.

*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!