Press "Enter" to skip to content

Two books for freedomista kids (and dog lovers)

Funny how freedomista books can turn up out of the blue, disguised as something else. Two such landed in my hold box at the library this week.

I went online, searching for the parody The Dangerous Book for Dogs. In the mysterious ways of the library’s search engine, the words “dangerous” and “dogs” popped up a few other titles, as well. Children’s books. Hm, I thought.

Pretty soon both Dangerous and two other titles were waiting for me. While I expected to be just mildly entertained (because a good kid’s book is a good book, and usually easy on the brain), I was blown away by a pair of freedomista stories.


The first is A Dog Called Grk.

Grk is a small black-and-white mutt found in the streets of London by independent 12-year-old Timothy Malt. Tim’s fussy, workaholic parents won’t even let him bring the dog in their house, and when they learn that Grk’s owner, a 12-year-old girl named Natascha Raffifi, has left London and returned to her native Stanislavia (an obscure nation somewhere near Russia), they determine to take the dog to a kill shelter.

Tim, who has a finely developed sense of right and wrong, decides that’s quite wrong. What’s right is to return Grk to young Natascha, no matter where she may be. So off he goes with the dog to Stanislavia. He is undeterred in his efforts to restore the dog to her — even when he learns that the girl and her family have been arrested by the evil Colonel Zinfandel, who has overthrown Stanislavia’s government. Zinfandel now holds the girl and her brother in prison and unbeknownst to them has killed their parents.

Tim lets nothing stop him — not Authority, not border crossing procedures, not carefully staged governmental PR events, not even the fact that flying a real helicopter isn’t exactly like “flying” one via computer simulation.

Adults will recognize … well, a certain lack of regard for reality. Kids should have a blast. And there were a couple of scenes that, if they appeared in a more conventional, explicit freedom novel, would have you cheering the courage and integrity of the characters. What the heck; they’re worth a cheer here, also.

A Dog Called Grk turns out to be book one of a growing series of comic adventure books featuring Tim, Grk, Natascha, and her older brother Max. And I say let me at ’em!


The second book is entirely different. Stormy is hyper-realistic. It’s also old enough to be called a classic. It was originally published in 1959, the 46th (and final) novel by outdoorsman and children’s author Jim Kjelgaard.

Kjelgaard (whose most famous work was Big Red, which became a Disney movie) believed you should never talk down to children, that in fact you had to live up to their expectations. And he does in this ultimate guy book.

Teenager Allan Marley is living alone in subartic wilderness. He and his father once earned their living guiding hunters who came to their lodge. But now his hot-tempered father is in prison for nearly beating a neighbor to death, and the neighbor’s vengeful family has cut off vehicle access to the lodge so hunters no longer come. Allan survives by hunting, fishing, and raising his own crops. He earns money by trapping and selling pelts, but his funds are rapidly diminishing.

Then, as winter sets in, early and harsh, Allan discovers a magnificent mixed-breed retriever, wounded (but dauntless) in the snow and ice. He learns that the dog is an “outlaw,” to be shot on sight for having attacked its last master. But Allan quickly realizes the dog, which he names Stormy, is not vicious at all, but an independent soul like himself, whose trust must be won and who will tolerate no mistreatment.

One of the things I enjoyed about Stormy is that, even though Allan interacts frequently with people in the nearby town, including authority figures like the local game warden, no one ever questions his right to be on his own or suggests that he needs any help or care. Everyone — including Allan himself — implicitly understands that he’s perfectly capable.

The novel is as much survival manual as story; you may get more information about wilderness living than you really want to know. But there are valuable lessons here, including think rationally and don’t panic even when a situation looks dire. Oh, and there’s a decent, if thin, plot in there, too.

Stormy is available via Amazon, but you can also read it free online via Project Gutenberg Canada.


The Dangerous Book for Dogs (a comic twist on the famous Dangerous Book for Boys) turned out to be entertaining — anything from howlingly funny to mildly lame and doggily gross. But A Dog Called Grk and Stormy were the real prizes of the week’s book haul.


  1. Mary Lou
    Mary Lou May 19, 2013 9:43 pm

    Omigod. Stormy and Big Red were 2 of my FAVORITE books as a child. And I have the DVD of Big Red (my all time favorite dog movie, of course … I so love Irish setters) …

  2. Matt, another
    Matt, another May 20, 2013 7:10 am

    In 1959 it was assumed if you were a mature teenager living by yourself you were capable of taking care of yourself. In most parts of the country you could find work that paid a reasonable wage, shelter and food that was affordable if very basic. If you lived in the country living by hunting, fishing and raising crops or small livestock was still possible.

  3. Bonnie
    Bonnie May 20, 2013 9:07 am

    I like to re-read children’s books, too. Mostly they are the ones I read myself way back when, not newer children’s books.

    I’m not a dog person, but Stormy sounds good – wish our library had it.

    Another great author for both kids & adults is Gary Paulsen. He never talks down to kids. And one can learn about survival skills from his books.

  4. Claire
    Claire May 20, 2013 11:17 am

    Laird — Oh my. That’s by the woman who wrote The Witch of Blackbird Pond, one of my very favorite historical novels (for children or otherwise). Will check it out.

    Bonnie — Will also queue a couple of Paulsen books. Thanks for the lead.

  5. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty May 20, 2013 2:19 pm

    I know many people are terribly critical of the story, but my first and most impressive animal story was the original “Black Beauty.” I loved horses intensly as a child (and ever since, actually), and read that story so many times I can recite parts of it verbatim more than 50 years later.

    It’s a story of slavery, quiet courage, endurance, and – likely – an imperfect picture of the historical framework, but not implausible.

    I also enjoyed “Big Red” very much, and a number of stories by Jack London. Actually, some of my favorite “children’s stories” were by Ursula LeGuin. I read most of them in my 20s. 🙂

    Will have to look at “The Witch of Blackbird Pond” and the others. Sounds very interesting. I’ve been stuck on murder mysteries the last month or so and am ready for a change. 🙂

  6. Kyle MacLachlan
    Kyle MacLachlan May 20, 2013 4:29 pm

    A while back I mentioned in a commentary here two of Ted Kerasote’s books (“Merle’s Door” and “Pukka-The Pup After Merle”).
    His latest one came out in February and is another winner (at least in my humble opinion). The title is “Pukka’s Promise- The Quest for longer lived Dogs”. It mixes a huge amount of research with tales about Ted’s second dog, Pukka, and how he does everything possible to have him live a long and healthy life. To implement some of his suggestions, you’d have to have quite a bit of money (he feeds Pukka on an entirely raw, frozen diet and spends about $ 2,500 a year on that) but other things (like titering your dog’s blood for antibodies instead of annual booster shots) will save you some in the long run.
    I’ve taken some of his tips and run with them (Sadie Dogg appreciates the raw deer bones and jerky) and might try some in the future; although the raw food diet is out unless I win the lottery 🙂 .
    I just thought I’d add another doggie book to the mix here; I hope you don’t mind, Claire.

  7. Debby Rich
    Debby Rich May 23, 2013 11:00 am

    You know I really love all the Jim Kjelgaard books. Another one is by Jack
    O’Brien. The Silver Chief series; Both sets might be found in your local
    library also and there is the lnter library loan. Another one that I am reading
    and is maybe quite young is the Loner by Ester Wier. It is taken during the
    Great Depression and the boy is on his own and traveling with crop pickers
    from state to state, trying to avoid the people who want to put him in ophanages. He lands up on a Montana sheep ranch and gets into all sorts of
    trouble trying to learn about raising sheep, but he finally learns and it is a good book also. And the powers that be came out to the sheep header camp
    for school on Saturdays instead of trying to drag him into town when he didn’t
    need it just then.
    But any way I do hope that someone might get ablessing out of those authers.

Leave a Reply