A Slave’s Hero: a Dog

I stumbled upon this rich text in the new book section at the library.  The underground railroad is a standard in social studies for fourth grade.   Sharing this story may help bridge history with something familiar – a boy and his dog. 

Elisa Carbone wrote Night Running:  How James Escaped with the Help of His Faithful Dog (illustrated by E.B. Lewis).  It’s based on a true story of James Smith, a runaway slave.  James decided to confide in a friend about his plans to escape.  Unfortunately, his friend betrayed him and he was caught.  James’s dog, Zeus, stayed close by and helped him escape his captors.  Although James was thankful, he worried that Zeus would make too much noise.

Zeus didn’t follow.  No, sir.  He ran on a head.  And noisy?  He made more racket…

This book is excellent for teaching students to focus in and highlight the most important parts.  Time upon time, Zeus saved James’s life, alerting him of danger and helping divert attention.  I was on the edge of my seat.  Eventually, James had to cross the Ohio River to freedom.  He hugged his dog for the last time and began to cross, only to be saved by Zeus again.

Boys like to see themselves as being fearless.  Night Running captures the sense of adventure, courage, and perseverance.  It also taps into the bond a dog has with his boy, as James loves his dog, but he is not willing to take Zeus.  Internal character conflict arises.  I had to reread parts to gain better understanding, visualizing the scenes and feeling the conflict.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Night Running:

  • Voice – you can almost hear James talking to Zeus and letting you into his head
  • Repeating Line woven in text –   Zeus was good at that.
  • Personification –
  • Simile – droopy as an old mulethrew that switch down like it was a rattlesnake on fire
  • Hyphenated words – good-for-nothings; fired-up mad; sweet-smelling

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3 Responses to A Slave’s Hero: a Dog

  1. Ruth says:

    wow, this sounds like a great book — and one that you probably fell in love with immediately! i know how you adore historical fiction. i can’t wait to get my hands on it. tfs. 🙂

  2. MaryHelen says:

    Yes, the book is excellent. I love to share books that have been based on a real happening. I think the conversation around children, people, who have gone through difficult times is important. It makes me think that some of my troubles aren’t so bad. I think that it teaches children to persevere through tough times.

  3. Paula Naugle says:

    Hi MaryHelen,
    I just found out about your blog via a “tweet” from @teachergirl89 on Twitter. I read several of your posts and bookmarked this site. You need to get an RSS feed burner added to your site so your fans can get your new posts delivered to their feeders.

    Also thought you may want to contact the people at http://www.writingfix.com/picture_book_prompts.htm and get them to use your ideas.

    Thanks for sharing. I’ll be back.

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