Sled Dog School by Terry Lynn Johnson

Sled Dog School

Terry Lynn Johnson, Author

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fiction, Oct. 3, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 7-11

Pages: 208

Themes: Dog sledding,  Sled dogs, Training, Business enterprise, Friendship

Book Jacket Synopsis: Eleven-year-old Matt feels most comfortable working and playing with his rowdy team of dogs. So when he has to set up his own business to help out his math grade, Matt’s Sled Dog School is born! Teaching dog sledding … how “ruff” can it be?

But people, just like dogs, can be unpredictable. The kids who sign up for the classes have a lot to learn — and a little to teach Matt himself — about how to blaze new trails and build new friendships along the way.

Like Terry Lynn Johnson’s popular Ice Dogs, Sled Dog School is about finding your strengths, and your friends, and unleashing your passions.

Why I like this book:

Terry Lynn Johnson has written a pleasantly satisfying novel about a boy and his sled dogs. It is a coming-of-age story for Matt Misco, who is a natural with his dogs, but struggles with math at school. He also endures teasing at school about his family’s nontraditional lifestyle of living “off the land” in Michigan. Their home doesn’t have electricity.

When Matt has the opportunity to pull up his math grade with an extra-credit business project, he decides to open a sled dog school.  The project requires Matt to have three students and a math plan for his business. He knows he can handle the teaching, but can he handle the math?

The characters are diverse and memorable. Matt is passionate about dog sledding because he’s been running dogs  since he could walk. He’s a skilled musher who is enthusiastic about his sport and at ease with his dogs. Matt is intuitive and knows his dogs’ personalities, traits, strengths and weaknesses.  His first student, Tubbs, is uncoordinated but is a good sport. Tubbs brings his misbehaved dog, Flute, with the hopes of having Matt train him. Alex, an accomplished English dressage rider, joins the school. She’s smart and an overachiever. Alex bonds with Matt’s younger tag-along sister, Lily.

The plot is original and full of action. The school gets off with a rocky start as Matt assumes he simply needs to tell his students what to do and then have them follow with their own small team of dogs. Tubbs has a hard time staying on his sled and wipes. Alex is a quick learner. Matt begins to refine his teaching methods to meet his students strengths and weaknesses. They are an unlikely threesome until an incident occurs and they join together in a rescue effort that strengthens their friendship.

I enjoyed how the teacher encourages his students to use math lessons in the real world. I particularly like how Matt’s parents encourage him to do what he loves most and not follow the crowd. And I like the courage it takes for Matt to tell his mom about his struggle with math and ask for help. Sled Dog School is sure to be a winner for dog lovers.

Resources: Visit Terry Johnson’s website for information about dog sledding and a curriculum guide. She has a lot of dog sledding photographs to share. At the end of the book is a glossary of dog sledding terms.

Terry Lynn Johnson, author of the acclaimed Ice Dogs, writes adventures based on her own experiences in the wilds of northern Ontario. She has been dragged on her face by her dog team, been lost in the bush more than once, and even chased a bear with a chainsaw. She owned a team of eighteen sled dogs for many years and currently works as a conservation officer. Visit her at her website.

Greg Pattridge is the permanent host for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

27 thoughts on “Sled Dog School by Terry Lynn Johnson

  1. Books featuring dogs are always popular. I remember how much I loved Old Yeller when I was a child. Kids can learn so much from animals. I think my great-granddaughter would enjoy this book, especially as her mom has a pet boarding kennel on their property.


  2. This book has all the elements of a winner with a great cover and a story to match. MIght make a good read aloud, too. I’ve added this one to my list of books to read this year. Thanks for your insights.


    • Yes, it is a good read aloud. It is a perfect book for early MG readers as it doesn’t get into the survival and deals with a kid who is using his passion to start a business and bring up his math grade. Ice Dogs is serious. And, I have another review coming up soon on another series. Her books are so engaging!


    • Yes, I loved Ice Dogs too which had a lot of survival in it. This is a fun book and perfect for younger Middle Grade students. Although I enjoyed reading it. So much more to come from Terry Lynn Johnson!


  3. I’m a sucker for dog stories – and stories about kids who don’t quite get how to speak math… Definitely putting this on my list. Nope – gonna go check the library system catalog for it now. Because – gotta read it while there’s still snow on the ground.


    • Ha! That’s why I reviewed it right now because of all the snow! You will really enjoy this story for both reasons. It’s interesting how he ends gains the confidence to admit he has a problem with math.


    • Actually, your mom would enjoy this story because one of the friends, Tubbs has a dog that is very disobedient. He brings him to classes and he learns to behave by watching the sled dogs and ends up doing just one run. The dog changes and it’s fun to watch that happen.


    • This is a great theme throughout the book. It does inspire an appreciation for Matt to learn math once he realizes that he has a talent teaching and all the kids at school want to join to learn.


    • It is a fun read for middle graders. Makes you want to take a ride on a sled dog run. You may like her book Ice Dogs, which involves more risk and survival. Cool you off in the Australian heat. 🙂


  4. Patricia, this does sound like a fun book with a lot going for it. I think children would love the opportunity to help Matt solve his problems (in maths as well as business).


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