written by Candace Fleming
illustrated by Eric Rohmann
About the book
For fans of Balto and other real-life dog stories, here's a heavily illustrated middle-grade novel about a canine movie star of the 1920s, dramatically told in both words and pictures by an acclaimed author and a Caldecott Medal-winning illustrator.
When movie director Larry Trimble travels to Berlin searching for his next big star—a dog!—he finds Etzel, a fierce, highly trained three-year-old German shepherd police dog. Larry sees past the snarls and growls and brings Etzel back to Hollywood, where he is renamed Strongheart. Along with screenwriter Jane Murfin, Larry grooms his protégé to be a star of the silver screen—and he succeeds, starting with Strongheart's first film, The Love Master, which is released in 1921. Strongheart is soon joined by a leading lady, a German shepherd named Lady Julie, and becomes a sensation.
But when Strongheart is accused of attacking a girl, he must prove his innocence—and it will take his best acting skills to do so.
Touching, charming, playful, and based on real events, this moving tale by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Eric Rohmann tells all about "the wonder dog" who took America by storm.
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Read the Reviews
“With the story’s most incredible plot developments based on fact, this fascinating and heartwarming piece of historical fiction will be met with wonder."
“This wonderfully charming illustrated middle-grade novel will find fans of all ages. Strongheart tells the entirely winning and wonder-filled tale of Etzel the German Shepherd. Born on a farm between the city and the Bavarian Alps, Etzel thinks he is destined to become a police dog, fighting criminals on the streets of Berlin. But when a Hollywood director meets the shepherd, Etzel is recognized for what he truly is … a star! Etzel enters a life in “the pictures,” starring in silent movies under the name of Strongheart. Red carpets and fame follow, and Strongheart soon sees his name in lights. But when he is wrongly accused of a horrible crime, the pup must use his acting chops to get out of trouble. Fans of Hollywood and the silver screen will love this historical-fiction story of a dog that became a 1920’s celebrity.”
“Before Rin Tin Tin and Lassie there was Strongheart, the first canine movie star, whose real-life career serves as the basis of this fast-paced, dramatic story from Fleming and Rohmann. In the silent-film era of the 1920s, director Larry Trimble decides his next big movie star will be a dog and in Berlin finds what he is looking for: a thoroughly trained, 3-year-old, male German shepherd with a fierce disposition named Etzel. Renamed Strongheart, Trimble's find becomes an instant superstar with the release of his first film, The Silent Call, in 1921. Strongheart has an off-screen romance with his leading lady in the appropriately titled The Love Master, resulting in a litter of puppies. The climax of the story is a dramatic courtroom trial in which Strongheart stands accused of attacking and killing 6-year-old Sofie Bedard, but boys from an orphanage produce Sofie in court at the last moment. Strongheart is vindicated when it's discovered Sofie's parents orchestrated her disappearance for an extortion scheme. Like a silent movie plot, Fleming's narrative is full of adventure, romance, and suspense. An author's note explains the facts behind the story. Rohmann's expressive illustrations beautifully capture Strongheart's personality; their integration into the book's design is striking. Particularly notable are three two-page spreads depicting the dog contemplating and then stealing a doughnut. A touching, playful, and satisfying tale of a silver-screen wonder dog. (photos, bibliography, notes)”