War Dogs: Churchill & Rufus Hardcover – Feb 1 2013
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About the Author
Kathryn Selbert is a recent graduate of Rhode Island School of Design. WAR DOGS is her first children’s book. She lives in Fairfield, Connecticut.
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This picture book also serves as a wonderful introduction to the period. Children will learn about the inner workings of government, for example how Mr. Churchill conducted business in an underground office deep beneath London. I had no idea that Rufus was a constant companion for Mr. Churchill, even accompanying him to the House of Commons! I thought the illustrator did a credible job of portraying life in London during this time. The panoramic depiction of London at night, lit only by what I assume to be bombardment, was rather eerie but conveyed the destructive effects of war quite well. As Churchill walks around devastated London the next morning, Rufus accompanies him, somberly taking in the ruins.
The book moves on through the war years until the ultimate Allied victory against the Axis powers. It aptly ends with Churchill and his beloved dog, Rufus, at rest in their country retreat with the caption, "They rest in the country at last, two war dogs." I think this book would make a great introduction or supplementary material for class discussion on WW II, and I think it lends itself more to upper elementary students (younger children might also appreciate it with some adult guidance). There's a timeline included at the back of the book, as well as some information on Churchill and his dogs, and there's also a bibliography and a list of additional reading suggestions.
Selbert, the author, also includes quotes from Churchill that are critical in understanding the brevity of the war. (Most of the quotes are too difficult conceptually for 2nd or early 3rd grade students.) A question for students to consider might be, "Why is this particular quote relevant in this part of the book?"
Students should read and reread additional features the author includes at the end of the book--a timeline of WWII, a short essay about Churchill and his beloved pets, and another short essay about Churchill himself. In the intermediate grades, a teacher might read aloud the book and then engage the students in close reading of one of the two essays for the author's main idea or in response to prompts like, "How would you describe Churchill based on your reading of this essay? Why? What parts of the text made you think so?" or "Churchill was an important figure in WWII. Identify and explain evidence in the text that supports this idea."
A teacher book introduction should emphasize the title--I didn't pay much attention to the title and as I read, felt like I wasn't learning much about Rufus. When I rethought the title - War Dogs (plural), the book made more sense to me. My point is that students shouldn't assume the book will be mostly about Rufus--actually it's more about Churchill and his role in WWII.
A lot of potential for teaching in grades 4-5 with students studying World War II. While this book is listed for grades 2-5, I think it would be hard for 2nd and even 3rd grade students to understand the main ideas in this book. For all readers, the author assumes some background knowledge about WWII--the conflict, the players, and the geography.
This book was awarded the International Literacy Association Children's and Young Adults' Book Award for primary nonfiction 2014.
This new picture book by debut author/illustrator Kathryn Selbert tells the story of the British home front by highlighting Churchill's relationship with his poodle, Rufus. The author opens with the following:
"Rufus's best friend, Winston Churchill, is a busy man, but most days Rufus and Winston share a walk."
It's 1940, and Winston is managing a nation at war. Through the eyes of Rufus, Churchill's faithful brown miniature poodle, we see Churchill at work, visiting his secret underground bunker, the room from which he directs the war, going to the House of Commons, walking through streets filled with rubble from buildings destroyed by Nazi bombers. Rufus is not always invited along however; when Winston meets with his allies, Franklin Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin, to plan D-Day, Rufus sits by the door, patiently guarding the bunker. Rufus is once again by Churchill's side as the war ends, barking and howling with happiness. In the end, Rufus and Winston retire to the country, resting..."two war dogs." In the final lovely two-page spread dominated by the greens of the English countryside, Winston and Rufus gaze out to the horizon, with the country finally at peace.
Back matter includes a timeline of World War II, a look at Churchill and his affection for poodles (he owned two during his lifetime, both named Rufus), and a brief biography of Winston Churchill himself. The author also includes books for young Churchill fans, Churchill and World War II-related websites, a bibliography, and quotation sources.
Acrylic and collage illustrations have an nostalgic yet realistic look, with plenty of sepia tones suggesting a time long ago. Each two-page spread features a quotation by Churchill on a yellowed piece of paper, in an old-fashioned typewriter-style font, designed to look like it has been pinned to the rest of the picture. An interview on the Charlesbridge website indicates that this book grew out of an undergraduate school project, but that the book originally focused more on the relationship between dog and owner, and less on the historical details. The book now provides more of an introduction to World War II, one that would be a good classroom read-aloud while studying that time period. The book will, of course, capture the heart of dog lovers as well as history lover, with its illustrations that depict Rufus in all his poodle splendor.
"War Dogs" is the story of the British Bulldog's leadership during World War II as seen through the eyes of his faithful comrade, Rufus, a brown miniature poodle. When Churchill was hard at work in the bunker under the city of London, or speaking at the House of Commons, or walking the bomb-damaged streets, Rufus was there by his side. Through the trials and tribulations of war, Rufus offered the kind of comfort and companionship only man's best friend could give. Selected quotations from Churchill's speeches appear on the pages like notes pinned to a bulletin board. They reveal the British Bulldog's enduring love for the people and his compassion for their suffering, whether citizens or soldiers. Kathryn Selbert's method of presenting the war from a dog's point of view is uniquely charming.
Selbert's acrylic and collage 2-page spreads depict the scope and drama of the British defense against the German invasion, as well as the love and devotion between Rufus and Churchill. End pages include a World War II timeline, more back story about Churchill and his poodles, plus many more resources about Churchill and World War II. Join this irresistible pair of "War Dogs" for a compelling journey through World War II history.
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