On My Bookshelf: The Captain's Dog by Roland Smith

January 08, 2018

The basic plot from Amazon: Born the runt of his litter and gambled away to a rusty old riverman, the Newfoundland pup Seaman doesn’t imagine his life will be marked by any kind of glory--beyond chasing down rats. But when he meets Captain Meriwether Lewis, Seaman finds himself on a path that will make history. Lewis is just setting off on his landmark search for the Northwest Passage, and he takes Seaman along. Sharing the curiosity and strength of spirit of his new master, Seaman proves himself a valuable companion at every turn. Part history, part science--and adventure through and through--The Captain’s Dog is the carefully researched, thrilling tale of America’s greatest journey of discovery, as seen through the keen, compassionate eyes of a remarkable dog.
The Captain's Dog by Roland Smith is a fun twist on historical fiction as it recounts a major event in American history, Lewis and Clark's journey, but from an animal's perspective. The narrator, Seaman, is just as adventurous as the men he accompanies and repeatedly proves himself to be a loyal companion. He is a keen observer and has an excellent read on the character of men (and women). Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.

Why I liked it: The Captain's Dog is a fun twist on historical fiction as it recounts a major event in American history, Lewis and Clark's journey, but from an animal's perspective. The narrator, Seaman, is just as adventurous as the men he accompanies and repeatedly proves himself to be a loyal companion. He is a keen observer and has an excellent read on the character of men (and women). Each chapter of the novel begins with an entry from Captain Meriwether Lewis's journal and then continues from Seaman's perspective. Both reveal much about the famed pair, Lewis and Clark, their personalities, their hopes for the journey westward, and the struggles they faced.


Classroom application: The novel would be a great pairing with a unit in an American history course, either middle school or high school, or a choice in literatures focused on the genre of historical fiction. 

The novel could also be used as a mentor text. Students could choose a famous animal to research and write from the perspective of, or even better, an animal connected to a famous historical event. My students recently took a trip to the zoo and completed a similar assignment. Beforehand, they selected an animal to research. While at the zoo, they spent about an hour observing the animal, taking notes, and beginning to write from its point of view. After the visit, students did additional research, if necessary, before writing a realistic fiction piece that had to weave in real facts about the animal's appearance, diet, habits, habitat, etc. This type of assignment is a great way to weave in research skills with narrative writing.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of the Captain's Dog for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

Note: The Literary Maven is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

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