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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Review: Snow Valley Heroes by Robert J. McCarty

Title: Snow Valley Heroes: A Christmas Tale (Planet of the Dogs Series, Book 3)
Author: Robert J. McCarty
Illustrator: Stella M. McCarty
Pages: 112
Publisher: Barking Planet Productions (August 25, 2008)
Genre: Children's fiction / Ages 9-12
Edition: Standard Paperback ~ Special thanks to the author for sending me a copy to review.

Perfect for : Children's reading, encouraging reading, group reading

In a nutshell: This is a great fantasy/holiday book for children and adults alike. The characters are fun and enjoyable, and the settings are well-written. Children will love to read this book and visualize the different towns, and they will likely add their own stories to the tale after reading the book. Additionally, the author has done a great job of making the children and dogs the heroes of the story, and adding little bits of responsibility throughout the book. Read the book over and over to peel back the layers and see something new! The book contains 13 wonderfully drawn illustrations (black and white), and excerpts from the first two books.

From the Publisher:
Who were the Snow Valley Heroes? Did they really save Christmas? The question has been asked by children and adults for many years. And there have been many who tried to answer these questions.

The confusion and uncertainty is because the Snow Valley Heroes came from the Planet Of The Dogs long, long ago.

This is the true story of how the dogs saved Christmas, told for the first time in many years.

Excerpt as linked from the author's site:

Chapter 1
Snow Valley

Snow Valley is where you will find Santa Claus Village. It is here that Santa has his home and workshops. Nearby is Elf Village, home of the elves. The elves have built many snow tunnels under their Village with rooms for workshops, growing food, and storing supplies. Santa, looking out his window, can see the snow- covered houses of Elf Village and watch the elf children playing in the snow.

The elves have discovered clever ways to make life quite comfortable in Snow Valley. The snow tunnels allow them to move around freely between their workshops, their homes and Santa’s house in all kinds of bad weather. For their children, they built snow slides and snow houses outside and, under the snow, their very own tunnels in which to play.

The elves used glow tubes to capture sunlight, allowing them to grow food in their bright caverns under the snow. There were certain treats, however, that had to be brought in by the supply caravans. Hot chocolate, for instance, a favorite of everyone in Santa Claus Village, had to be brought in from far away. It was the Tundra Town traders who brought these treats and all kinds of supplies for the toy workshops to Santa and the elves.

There was a secret place near the Village where two elves, Tip and Top, took Santa’s reindeer to feed. It was a special place with level ground between two snow-covered hills where warm water came up from deep within the earth. Moss, lichen, and small plants never stopped growing there and the snow was never deep. It had always been this way, even when it snowed for many days. This allowed Santa’s reindeer to always be strong and healthy. No one except the elves and Santa knew where to find the special feeding grounds.

Every day, except when there were strong blizzards, Tip and Top took Santa’s eight reindeer to the feeding grounds where they could graze, play and run around. A pine forest covered one hillside, and from the top of another hill, the elves could see far down Snow Lake Trail.

One fine winter day, just six week before Christmas, Tip and Top climbed the hill to look for a missing Tundra Town supply caravan.

All Santa’s supply caravans began in Tundra Town where powerful horses pulled wagons and sleds along the Tundra Trail to Snow Town. There, they were unloaded and everything was placed in special caravan sleds that were pulled by strong winter horses or by reindeer. The reindeer, like the horses, were selected from special herds and trained to pull the sleds over trails of snow and, sometimes, ice. The supply caravans continued deliveries throughout the year, as the elves were always busy making new Christmas toys.

The missing caravan of three big sleds that the elves were looking for had left Snow Town several days before. The elves knew that, during the week, strong winds had driven heavy snow along the caravan route. And, although Santa had said that bad weather had often caused these delays in past years, the elves were becoming worried. The sleds carried supplies that were needed in the workshop.

On this day the skies were clear and from their lookout place the elves could see far down Snow Lake Trail. However, except for the dark shape of wild reindeer on the horizon, there was nothing to see except the Western Mountains and the Snow Hills of the North.

Chapter 2
The Tundra Town Traders

Tundra Town is the home of the people who supply Santa with wool, wood, clay, colored stones and many other things that the elves need to build toys.

Other traders come there from far away, carrying their goods in horse caravans or by wagon. These traders receive a warm welcome in Tundra Town, but they are not allowed to go further North with their goods. Only the Tundra Town traders went North to Snow Town and beyond. Everyone who worked and lived in Snow Town was also a member of the Tundra Town tribe.

Not all of the caravans that left Snow Town went to Santa Claus Village. There were also regular shipments of certain iron, tools and food supplies that were delivered to the Ice Castle home of the King of the North.

These caravans followed a different route after leaving Snow Town. They began their journey the same way, by first following the Snow Lake Trail. After a day of travel, however, they turned off onto Frozen River Trail in the direction of the Cold Mountains. The next morning, if they hadn’t been slowed by storms, they came to the place where the trail, turning north, led them to the magnificent Ice Castle.

The Ice Castle, rising high in the sky, was actually made of rock and wood and covered, after many years of winter storms, in ice and snow. With its tall towers and flowing walls reflecting moon light or the rays of the sun, the Ice Castle was always a stunning sight. The Cold Mountains, rising high behind the Ice Castle, reminded travelers of the harsh winter world that lay beyond.

The caravan drivers all preferred to deliver supplies to Santa rather than make the trip to the Ice Castle. Seeing Santa and Mrs. Claus was always fun. Mrs. Claus was a very good cook – and, in the evening, the elves often made lovely music on their ancient instruments.

Perhaps it was their imaginations, but the caravan drivers felt uncomfortable inside the Ice Castle. Something didn’t feel right. And even though they were given good warm food, and slept overnight next to the huge cook room, they were always anxious to leave and were usually gone before daybreak.

SNOW VALLEY HEROES A CHRISTMAS TALE. Text Copyright © 2008 by Robert J. McCarty. Illustrations, Copyright © 2008, by Stella Mustanoja McCarty. All rights reserved. Printed by Lightning Press in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information, please send an e-mail to barkingplanet@aol.com

Extended Review: A fun and easy read that will engage both children and adults alike. The story is made up of Santa and Mrs. Claus, elves, adults, children and dogs. The author does a great job of weaving the story, creating a world that children will be able to dream about even when they aren't reading.

As a special side note, the books are being used in Therapy Dog Programs in at least five states, with facilitators providing wonderful feedback about the children's interest in reading, and the benefit of the children reading to dogs, who don't judge the reader, allowing them to read without fear of making mistakes. Visit their blog here.

Characters: Fun and well-thought-out. The author has included a list of characters in the front of the book to help keep humans/elves and dogs straight!

Story-Line: With teamwork and a good plan, the children and dogs work together to help save Christmas (Dasher and Dancer - two of Santa's reindeer are missing, and Santa can't deliver presents without them).

Readability: Easy to read, each chapter has a good breaking point.

Illustrations: The inner black and white illustrations are very well-done, and will help the readers to visualize the story. I was a little disappointed in the cover, feeling that it could have been a little more professional with the printing (the illustrations are nice).

Overall: A fun story for the whole family that will encourage children to read and dream!

About the Author: (from the publisher's site)

Stella and Robert have been honored to be the human companions for several dogs.

Stella Mustanoja McCarty, who teaches painting and drawing at the Vantaa, Finland, Art School, illustrated the book. She graduated as a painting major from the Art Academy in Helsinki and also holds degrees from the University of Helsinki in Education and Sociology and Social Policy.

Robert McCarty is a producer/writer/director of films and videos on subjects ranging from teenage lifestyles to race relations. His short film, Rooftops Of New York, was nominated for an Academy Award. He is a former adjunct instructor at Teacher's College, Columbia University and at the School Of Visual Arts, New York City. Planet Of The Dogs was inspired by the many stories made up for his four children and five grandchildren.

If you would like to visit the author's sites: http://www.planetofthedogs.net/


If you have reviewed this book and would like me to add a link to your review, please a link in your comment!


Anonymous said...

Dear Wendi,
Stella and I want to thank you for such a positive and comprehensive review...we are very appreciative of all the elements you noticed and of your endorsement.
Happy Holidays,

Christina G. said...

This sounds like a book that my daughter would love.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a good book for this time of year! Nice blog.

Heather said...

This sounds like a wonderful book!

Unknown said...

enjoyed your review. Seems like a "fun to read" story for adults and children alike :)

The Halton Mom said...

Your review has me really excited for the giveaway. Thanks!

lil_wifey21 at yahoo dot com

Anonymous said...

My dog is a therapy dog and this book sound like it would be perfect for our family.

Anonymous said...

sounds lovely!

Donna said...

Thanks for the review. My kids would really enjoy it.

rosannepm said...

I like that the children and dogs are heroes of the book.

Crystal F said...

Sounds like a great kids book!

Anonymous said...

It sound like a great book.

Steve Svetter3105@aol.com

Anonymous said...

Based on your review, I WANT to read this book too! I appreciate that the children and dogs are the heroes of the story, as my children have a dearly beloved dog; and, they would be able to relate to that element. The Ice Castle would fascinate my son. And, I was surprised and delighted to learn about the Therapy Dog Program mentioned in your review. Thanks for the review!

2reddd said...

What a great idea....dogs teaching humans about how to be better citizens of the planet!

alaska2reddd at yahoo dot com

Anonymous said...

I'm new to this site but am very interested. The book sounds wonderful to me as an adult. I think my 6 year old will love the story as well- he loves to read and be read to.


elsmarlouamrman said...

There were a great deal of points of interest in your review, including the author's insert, but, I am most intrigued about using this book in an educational setting. I work with students who speak languages other than English (currently, 14 other languages. Any educational realia that I can use to further mu students' English acquistion is always appreciated. Thanks for this opportunity.

Anonymous said...

Your review was very informative and detailed.

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