Author/Illustrator Robert J Blake
Please visit our "How To" page to see how to use the activity suggestions.
Don't miss the photos of Togo, Mr. Seppala and his team at the end of the blog post!
About this book: When Togo was a pup Mr. Seppala thought he was too small, too independent and too wild to be a sled dog, but Togo grew to be one of the best sled dogs to ever live. I believe this story can teach children who may have been told they are too something or other, that they may also grow to be the best ever! Many of us have heard the story of Balto, the great sled dog who brought the life saving serum into Nome in 1925, but most don't know that Balto carried the serum only 53 miles while Togo carried it 350 miles through very serious weather. There are two good lessons we can learn from Togo; sometimes our challenges when we're young can turn into attributes as adults, like Togo's strong will and determination did and also, sometimes heroes don't get the recognition they deserve.
Type of Illustration: Oil Painting
Art Activity: The first thing you see when you open the book is a map of Alaska. Notice how Mr. Blake painted the mountains with his oil paints. This textural way of painting is called impasto. After reading the book go through again showing the children how the oil paint, used with this technique gives depth and texture to the illustrations. Also, notice the picture of Togo on the front of the book, and how the oil paint gives depth to the ice and snow on his face. I believe this is a great cover illustration!
As you go back through the book, find the pictures where you see impasto. Let each child pick their favorite illustration. I think mine is the one that shows the sled dogs in profile, when they spot the other team with the serum. I like the way Togo is looking toward the other team and we can see how tired the dogs are.
Also you can discuss the colors Mr. Blake used in this book. They're quite wintry and cold, lots of whites and grays. The only bright colors come from light shining, as in the picture of Mr. Seppala in the doorway, with the light behind him, or the sunset and sunrise.
This blog has a great lesson for kids to learn to use impasto: http://artcuratorforkids.com/impasto-painting-with-kids/
Time line: We aren't sure what year Togo was born but he ran his first race in 1918 and set a record when he ran that race again in 1919. The year of the Diphtheria breakout and serum run was 1925. Your child can mark all these dates or any one they like on their time line with a note or a picture of Togo.
Active game or activity:
The To Two Too Game
For 2 or more players
You can write these two sentences on a whiteboard or make a little poster:
There can be more than two was to write some words that sound the same. Sometimes there are too many! You can explain that words that sound the same but are spelled differently and mean different things are called homonyms. Here's a great link explaining in depth:
Make each person 1 index card each saying To, Too and Two.
If your children are younger you could draw or write a little clue on each card, such as an arrow on the to, as in “going to,” perhaps the word many under the too, and the number 2 on the two card. Later you can remake these and play again without the clues.
Write or print out these sentences, one on each index card or page of paper:
Togo was _______________________ small.
I want ___________________ read Togo again.
Togo was _______________________wild!
Togo loved ______________________ run.
I have ________________________ apples.
Togo was _______________________ independent.
We will go ____________________ the store.
I see _____________________dogs.
Togo handed over the serum __________________ Balto and his team.
The dogsled team was led ________________ many victories by Togo.
You can make up as many more To Two and Too sentences as you like.
How to Play:
Place all of the sentence cards face down in the middle of the table. Each player takes a turn, turning over one card, reading it, or picks another player to read it for them, then plays the proper card needed to fill in the blank on top of the sentence card. If it is correct they get to take that sentence card. Mom can be judge or appoint one other person to play as judge, but the judge should take a turn as well if there's only two playing. The person with the most sentence cards at the end of the game wins that round. Play as many rounds as you like!
Another fun game:
Materials needed: a length of yarn
Pick one person to be Togo, could be the youngest, oldest, smallest (like Togo), tallest, whatever you like. Togo stands in front of the line of others playing, with someone playing Mr. Seppala in the rear. The yarn must go from Mr. Seppala's right hand, around the line of others and into his left hand. Even if there's only two of you, this can be fun! The “sled dogs” must hold the yarn and lead Mr. Seppala around, outside if the weather is nice. There were times when Mr. Seppala had to trust Togo to lean the way because he couldn't see because of all the snow,wind and cold. Have Mr. Seppala close his eyes and trust his team to lead him. Take turns being Togo leading the team!
Map it: Find Alaska on your globe and map. The map in the front of the book is great for showing the route of the 1925 Serum Run. If you're marking your map you can do it similar to the way this one is marked and showing Togo's path. They were supposed to go from Nome to Nulato, but they were intercepted at Norton Bay with the serum and were asked to go back to Golovin where they handed it off to Balto and his team.
Search and Find:
A child in a red coat
Dogs playing on a roof
A red lantern
Question Suggestions: If they don't remember the answer go back into the book and help them find it or just let them know and discuss. Remember, asking what they think makes them think!
What kind of dog was Togo?
Did Togo win his first race?
No, but he won every one after that.
How did Togo escape from the lady Mr. Seppala gave him to when he was a puppy?
Jumped through a window.
Did the fence hold Togo at home when Mr. Seppala and the team left?
How do you think he could have gotten out?
Digging or going over perhaps?
Do you think Togo loved to run?
Why do you think Togo was a good dog?
In those days, what do you think were the only forms of transportation during the snowy winter months in Alaska?
Train and sled
How do people get around now?
Train, sled, snowmobiles, airplanes
Togo and his team began to freeze because they didn't have much fur on their bellies. Do you remember what Mr. Sepella had to do to help them?
He had to take off his gloves and rub their bellies to keep them from freezing.
What do you think the word taut means?
From the book: Dogs scrambled in all directions, pulling the line taut.
Taut - stretched or pulled tight; not slack.
Can you think of some words to describe Togo?
Small (for a Siberian Husky)
Togo was a Siberian Husky, study further about his breed, and see what other breeds are used for sledding.
Study sled dog teams and how they work together.
I have not read every page on this site, but it looks informative on modern day sled dog teams, the first page is questions and answers:
The history of sled dogs.
Learn about the Iditarod.
Get more books from the library by Robert J. Blake, many are about dogs or other animals.
Math: Togo traveled 350 miles and Balto traveled 53 miles. How many more miles did Togo travel than Balto?
“The shortest distance between two points is a straight line,” is a quote by Archimedes.(A great book for kids is Archimedes and the Door of Science - http://www.amazon.com/Archimedes-Science-Living-History-Library/dp/1883937124) Togo always tried to get where he was going as fast as possible, which meant the straightest line and at times that would land his team and Mr. Sepalla into a snowbank or other trouble. However, this was also a gift when it came to making their way across Golovin Bay, when Mr. Seppala couldn't see where they were going.
Test Archimedes' quote with yarn or thread:
You can do this in any room in the house, but the room with the most furniture in it would work best. Tape your yarn to one wall and pull it straight across the room to another wall, above all the furniture. Cut the yarn to that length and set it aside. Next, tape new yarn in the same spot but near the floor. Pull the yarn around the furniture, the same path you would need to walk to get to the same spot you taped the first yarn, but again, lower. Cut your yarn to that length.
What is your hypothesis (educated guess) as to which yarn will be the longest?
Can you see how it would be fastest for Togo to travel in a straight line, rather than have to go around snowdrifts and mountains? The shortest would also be the fastest!
Science Study: Temperatures
Winter time experiments:
Treasure Box: Print this picture or one of the others of the Togo and glue it onto cardstock to save it in your treasure box.
This is a book list of Robert J Blake and I like the way there's a little note by each book where he tells about it. I especially like the Care Bear book he says he wasn't supposed to illustrate but the original artist broke her arm.
This site has some of Mr. Blake's art from when he was a child, so cool!
Pictures of Togo, Mr. Seppala and the team: