War Dogs: Churchill & Rufus
Kathryn Selbert, author/illustrator
Kathryn Selbert is a recent graduate of Rhode Island School of Design. War Dogs is her first children’s book. She lives in Fairfield, Connecticut.
Read more about Kathryn.
- NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People
- IRA Children's and Young Adult Book Awards
Kirkus Reviews, starred review
An introductory look at Winston Churchill and his notable place in British history uses a clever narrative device that focuses on his miniature poodle, Rufus.
Churchill was often compared to a bulldog due to his tenacity, and one of his nicknames was the British Bulldog. The book’s title refers to both Churchill and his beloved pet, who accompanied the great leader throughout the war years. The touching story follows Churchill from 1940-45, summarizing his work leading the war effort in England with a succinct and accessible text. Evocative illustrations in acrylic and collage incorporate short quotations from Churchill, designed to look like typewritten notes pinned to the pages. The illustrations do a remarkable job of conveying war-torn London, with one striking, wordless spread showing London in blackout mode, the shadow of St. Paul’s looming above. At war’s end, Churchill and Rufus are shown from the back, sitting near their country home, “two war dogs” resting at last. By focusing closely on Churchill and his pet, Selbert effectively provides a starting point for children to begin to understand the complexities of World War II.
The combination of thoughtful design, compelling illustrations and a winsome canine companion make this beginning biography stand out.
Winston Churchill might have been known as the British Bulldog, but in truth he was best friends with a miniature poodle named Rufus. When WWII comes crashing down on London, the small dog bears witness to Churchill's efforts as prime minister. Although the book is not told strictly from Rufus' point of view, first-time author Selbert uses the dog as an identifier for readers. Her illustrations, which incorporate orange-brown tones similar to the color of the little poodle, have a softness about them that seems at odds with harsh wartime realities. But as the story works toward its conclusion, which is not so much about the end of the war, but how the two "war dogs" can finally rest, Selbert nicely shows the immense pleasure and support a human can take from a friendship with an animal. An author's note at the end discusses Churchill's long relationship with poodles, as well as a brief overview of Churchill's place in history. There is also a time line of WWII and an impressive selection of further resources and sources consulted.
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Page count: 48
10 1/2 x 9 1/2