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Dogs of War

Dogs of WarDogs of War
Written by: Sheila Keenan
Illustrated by: Nathan Fox
Publisher: Scholastic
Format: HC/SC, 6 x 9, 208 pages, Full Color, $22.99/$12.99
ISBN: HC: 978-0-54512-887-2/SC: 978-0-54512-888-9

The topics found in this graphic novel are: World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War. Pretty historical stuff, and even more importantly, pretty serious life and death situations. And although we may have many schema thoughts that immediately pop to mind when we reflect on those three wars, this graphic novel bravely and deservedly desires to add to our pre-existing schema. By asking about the politics, the men, the women, the children, and all three war dogs our loved ones and ancestors lived through themselves Sheila A. Keenan and Nathan Fox ask readers of Dogs of War to remember three brave dogs who fought in each war struggling and striving just as hard as their soldier companions.  

Based in nonfictional military history from all three wars readers of all ages will be instantaneously inspired by the courage, bravery, and loyalty that each soldier and his dog demonstrates to fighting for what is right and what is justice. Real-life superheroes, whether man or dog, are sure to capture attention and lead to many heartfelt discussions about what it really means to be a hero.

That said, here are the stories of Boots, Loki, and Sheba: Role models for dogs and their selfless love for their human counterparts. Their stories will transport you into a world where dogs are not just dogs and human are not just humans; together, they are loyal friends and loyal, superhero-protectors of each other and mankind – during some of the most horrific wars in the 20th century.

Personally, this book has already made its way onto my most "favored stories" bookshelf. And if I were a betting girl I'd say that Dogs of War will soon find itself on bookshelves all over the world: at home, at school, at local libraries, and, passed from one kid to the next as they start a sign up sheet to see who gets to read this fabulous story next.

English Language Arts Elements of Story

This Graphic Novel Has Three Critical Stories, and, as a result, Three Critical Plot Points:

Plot Point I, World War I:
•Date December 1, 1914


Plot Point II, World War II:
•Date Spring, 1942

Plot Point III, Vietnam War:
•August 1968


Major Characters: Typically the list of major characters sticks with the people who make up the story. This time, however, I thought it would be interesting to ask young readers to focus on the dogs as the main characters in the story: Boots, Loki, and Sheba.

Themes: Problem-solving, Humans and Animals, Friendship, Life and Death, War, Struggle and Survival

Traditional and Contemporary Literary Pairing Suggestions: Laika by Nick Abadzis, Call of the Wild by Jack London, Old Yeller by Fred Gipson, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, The Old Man in the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, Island of the Blue Dolphin by Scott O'Dell, Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

Some Teaching Recommendations Using the Common Core Standards For Elementary Readers in Grades 6 -12

Key Ideas and Details*
1. Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
2. Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
3. Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
* The numbers referenced above correspond to the numbers used by the Common Core Standards (www.commoncore.org)

Lesson Idea for Elementary School Readers:

Directions: Divide students into three groups, one for each dog (for larger classes you may want to have 6 groups, two for each dog).  Ask them to draw a large circle with dog's name in the middle. It might be helpful to give students an index card with the name of their dog on it.  

Next, students can follow these steps.

1. After you draw a large circle on a blank sheet of paper, write your dog's name in the center of that circle.

2. Next, read your assigned dog's story (Boots starts on page 1; Loki starts on page 65; Sheba starts on page 133).  

3. As you read your dog's story look for key ideas, quotes, and/or images about your assigned dog, especially looking for and paying attention to characteristics that will help you describe your dog to your peers and teacher. When you find these key characteristics write/draw them on your piece of paper, drawing lines to connect each of your ideas, quotes, and/or drawings back to the circle with your dog’s name in it.

4. As you read more of your dog's story keep adding key details about your dog's characteristics.

5. When you are done reading conduct a brief meeting with your group and talk about: "What are the most important characteristics we found out about our dog? Which of these characteristics should we share with the class?" Make a list of at least 3 – 5 thoughts to share.

6. Next, each group will take a turn describing their dog's key characteristics and details, pointing out quotes, ideas from the story, and / or images that they picked while reading.

7. Finally, the teacher can engage everyone in a comparison and/or contrast list about all three dogs (using a T-chart design). "What did the dogs have in common? What made each dog unique?" 

Dr. Katie Monnin is an Associate Professor of Literacy at the University of North Florida.  Besides the joy that comes with reading comic books and graphic novels, Dr. Monnin enjoys a Peter Pan-ish life of researching and writing her own books about teaching comics, graphic novels, and cartoons: Teaching Graphic Novels (2010), Teaching Early Reader Comics and Graphic Novels (2011), Using Content-Area Graphic Texts for Learning (2012), Teaching Reading Comprehension with Graphic Texts (2013), and Get Animated! Teaching 21st Century Early Reader and Young Adult Cartoons in Language Arts (2013); Teaching New Literacies in Elementary Language Arts ( in press, 2014).  When she is not writing (or sitting around wondering how she ended up making an awesome career out of studying comics and graphic novels), Dr. Monnin spends her time with her two wiener dogs, Sam and Max.