Wednesday, December 22, 2010

When the Hero Is a Dog


This is the perfect time of year for elementary school students to read The Wreck of the Ethie (Peachtree, 1999). In this short novel, Hilary Hyland recounts how the steamer, the SS Ethie, was caught in the middle of a violent blizzard 90 years ago. Both girls and boys in 3rd-6th grades will enjoy reading the fictionalized account of how a Newfoundland dog saved almost 100 people from drowning to death on December 11, 1919. 


The story is told from multiple points of view. Readers see the voyage, storm, crash, and rescue from the perspective of Skipper (the dog); Colleen (Skipper’s owner and daughter of a local Newfoundland fisherman); Patrick (young crew member on board the Ethie); Fergus (the superstitious, hard-working first mate); and Captain Flannery.


Hyland does a good job conveying the details of the powerful storm and how the difficult rescue operation hinged upon Skipper’s strength and bravery. Months later the “real” Newfoundland (whose name was Wisher) was awarded a leather collar and silver plate inscribed with “Hero.” Lost for years, the collar resurfaced in 2002 in an Alaskan antique store.


The black and white illustrations, glossary, author’s note, and easy reading level all contribute to making this short historical novel accessible to reluctant readers.

11 comments:

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

Oh, so cool about that collar showing up!! I look forward to reading this!

CL said...

Hi Carol, Thanks for your comment on my blog and your support! This book sounds like just the kind of thing my daughter would love.
Happy Holidays!

Gretchen said...

Sounds like a great book. I'll put it on my to-read list.

Carol Baldwin said...

Yes, this is definitely a book that kids (and adults!) will enjoy.

Linda Vigen Phillips said...

Carol,

This is an interesting literary connection. The YA novel I am getting ready to teach, Star in the Storm by Joan Hiatt Harlow, is based on the very same true incident. Story line, characters and dog's name all differ, but they both were inspired by this historical incident.

Linda

Linda Vigen Phillips said...

Carol,

An interesting literary connection here. The YA book I am about to teach, A Star in the Storm by Joan Hiatt Harlow, is based on the same true incident. Names and story line differ, but the historical nugget is the same.

Linda

Carol Baldwin said...

Yes, that is interesting LInda. We should swap books!

Lizzie Skyrocket said...

Hello everyone, Thank you for your kind comments regarding The Wreck of the Ethie. December 11th was the 91st anniversary of the shipwreck. I first learned of this event back in 1990 when we got our first Newf.dog. I spent two years researching the details and my book was published in 1999, a year or two before Star in the Storm. Her book is loosely based on the same event,but does not use the ship's name,location,correct number of passengers. The actual events differ on how the rescue occurred and the aftermath. For my research, I visited the location of the wreck and the Maritine History Archives. They had photos of the SS Ethie before and after she wrecked and a passenger's diary. The archives had the Captain's Log and in my book, I indicated his chilling descriptions of Mother Nature at her worst. From the Weather Bureau I got 1919 maps tracking the progress of the two storms (think The Perfect Storm for kids). The best coup was interviewing the "baby who was saved in the ship's mailbag" She gave me incredible background information that I wove into the story. All my characters are based on real people except one (their real names are indicated in the back material) There is a strong girl character AND a strong boy character. The boy is based on the Purser of the ship.I interviewed the son of the man who owned the heroic dog. He's the one who told me it was his father's birthday & I included that detail in my book. Students reading my book can see how an author weaves in facts in the story. I've visited almost 300 schools and display many items with me: 1919 weather maps, 1919 newspaper articles, crew manifest, photos of the ship before & after she wrecked, rock from shore ship wrecked on, life ring, pictures of baby saved in mailbag, breeches buoy and the silver engraved dog collar awarded to courageous dog. Several of these pictures were not included in my book( dog collar, baby mailbag)but if you'd like a copy let me know. My website is www.hilaryhyland.com and I'm on Facebook: Hilary Raymond Hyland. My FB page has the pictures under my Photo ALbum:School Visits. I love talking to teachers and please feel free to contact me. THANK YOU! Hope you all have a Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday and terrific 2011!

Carol Baldwin said...

Hilary,
Thanks for your comments. All I can say about your research is WOW! Very impressive. I bet your school visits are terrific. All the artifacts you can show are fantastic.

Jean said...

Sounds like an exciting read. Thanks, Carol, and Merry Christmas!

Jean

Bonnie J. Doerr said...

I'm so glad I didn't miss this post. What a wonderful book this must be. Right up my alley. Thanks for sharing it, Carol.