Snow Dog
by Jim Kjelgaard

Review by
David H. Franson

Holiday House: New York, 1948
236 pages

November 2001


Snow Dog takes place in the north woods. The main character, Link Stevens, is a fur trapper. He has five working dogs: Yuke, Kena, Lud, Tibby, and Queen — a large, gray dog heavy with pups. Queen earlier had pups but they were killed and left on the snow by her previous owner; so although she likes Link, she runs off to have her pups in a safe and dry windfall.

Queen's pups would have been safer if she had stayed with Link. The man assured her, "I'll take care of your babies when they come. I'll carry them myself." But the bad memories stayed with Queen, and consequently Chiri is the only survivor of her three pups. Chiri, although half wild, joins Link's dog team later — he is the real Snow Dog of the title.

This is cold country, and Jim Kjelgaard makes you feel part of it. In the mornings, Link gets up, rushes to the cabin stove, lights a fire, rushes back into bed again, and waits until his cabin warms up. The novel opens:

The north wind blew low across the snow fields, carrying powder snow before it and piling it on the drifts that lay like long, shadowed fingers in the lee of every tiny rise. With icy force the wind swept through the dark evergreens that marked the foot of a low, steep hill, and whistled up the slope, straight into the nose of the black wolf who sat there.

I recommend this book to anyone who likes animal stories with reasonable characters and plot. Snow Dog seems as though it is being told by different characters at different times; sometimes by Link Stevens, and other times by one of his dogs or a wolf. The novel plunges right into the action and there are no big let-downs (depending on which characters you like). It flows well, and the motivation of Link and the wild and tame animals is always clear.

Snow Dog is back in print again, along with some of Kjelgaard's other books. There is more info on these at Gary L. Charter's Kjelgaard site. Snow Dog has a sequel, Wild Trek. I have read several other animal books by Jim Kjelgaard such as Desert Dog, but this is my favorite of them all.


© 2001 David H. Franson

Thanks to Gale Research
for its early reference reprint of this review.

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