PPBF Looks at ‘Herbert – The True Story Of A Brave Sea Dog’

PPBF (Perfect Picture Book Friday) looks at Herbert The True Story of a Brave Sea Dog.

Anyone who has ever experienced grief when their pet got lost will appreciate the loyalty of one little boy and his deep belief that his dog will come home to him again.

I recall vividly the summer when my cat disappeared for several days. My parents were convinced it was Misha’s time, and he had gone off to die. Like Tim, in the picture book I am sharing today, I kept believing Misha was alive. During his absence, I wondered if Misha worried he’d never find his way home again. Did he miss me as much as I missed him? Was he hurt and unable to walk? I never knew the struggles Misha endured until his return. A hawk had tried to carry our cat away and in the struggle, broke a talon off in Misha’s back. Yes, my beautiful cat survived and lived for many more years.

For anyone who has experienced the sheer joy when a happy bundle of fur returns home, or can imagine such a joy, you will cherish Herbert – The True Story of a Brave Dog. 

Title – Herbert – The True Story of a Brave Sea Dog

Written and illustrated by- Robyn Belton

Published by- Candlewick Press – First U.S. edition 2010

Suitable for ages – 4  – 8

Topics/theme – Friendship, Loyalty, Hope, Faith, and Love

Opening – Herbert was a small dog who lived in Nelson, New Zealand, by the sea. Everybody liked Herbert, but the person who loved him most was Tim.

Jacket Flap  –  Herbert was a small dog who lived by the sea. Everybody loved him, but the person who loved him best of all was Tim. One fine day, Herbert set off on a boat with Tim’s father. And so began the biggest adventure of Herbert’s life. This heartwarming tale, written and illustrated by Robyn Belton, tells the remarkable true story of a young boy’s beloved dog and his real life adventure at sea.

Synopsis from Amazon – A boy never gives up hope when his little dog vanishes at sea in this suspenseful and heartwarming true-life adventure.

Why do I like this book? Robyn Belton tells a touching story that pulled at my heart. When Herbert fell overboard and wasn’t noticed missing until hours later, due to  bad conditions at sea, I welled up inside with sadness for Tim and for Herbert who would have a hard struggle ahead of him. I admired Tim’s devotion for his dog when, during their search out at sea, everyone gave up except him, and in looking one more time, a cherished friend and pet was found after enduring 30 hours in the sea. Robyn Belton’s sensitive watercolors offer the perfect feeling to this treasured tale. The end papers of this beautiful book offer a strong addition to the book in that they include photographs of Tim and Herbert, the medal Herbert was awarded, maps, and letters from people whose hearts were touched when they read of this incident in the newspaper. This isn’t a picture book I was content to check out of my library–this is a picture book I purchased because its rich writing and beautiful illustrations earned it a place in my home.

An interview with Robyn Belton  about this story can be viewed here.

Writing From Real Life Experiences

As promised, I’ll share with you the inspiration for another picture book I am writing. This one is a nonfiction animal rescue story.

Growing up in the country meant living in a place where wildlife lived both outside and inside the house. I had, and still have, the uncanny ability to know when an insect is near. It’s like having a built-in radar I wish I could disable.

I recall a hot summer night (frankly all summer nights were hot at my mid-west house. My parents never saw the need to install an air conditioner when a cross breeze through open windows offered relief for free.) I digress… I was about eight at the time, and in addition to my insect radar, I also had (and still have) the ability to hear coffee being picked across the world—OK, not quite. But I heard a sound much like a troop of ants invading a picnic. I flipped on the light and let out a neighbor-waking scream. My mother came running. Upon seeing an uninvited millipede sharing my pillow, she proceeded to calmly get the vacuum cleaner from the hall closet and suck up the little bugger. “You live in nature,” she said, plugging the hose with a wad of tissues. Like that was supposed to bring me a calm, restful night. From that point on it seemed nature found a clear path into our home.

Yes, we had the rare, but common mouse sightings, but we also had a praying mantis infestation when my mother brought an ‘interesting’ cocoon into our house. “Isn’t it fascinating?” she said. A month later when thousands of babies hatched, she sang a different tune. Then a ladybug convention darkened our windows by their sheer numbers. ladybugsIn addition to the insects, we gave shelter and care to a variety of furry critters the cat dragged home within an inch of their lives.

But the animal which left the largest print on my heart was an injured mallard we found a mile from our home. Seeing the bloody, broken duck, my mother supposed it was attacked by a raccoon or coyote. It appeared clear the duck wouldn’t last the night, but being me… I cried. I cried for the pain the duck must have been experiencing. I cried for the fear the duck must have felt during the attack. I cried for the experiences the duck would not enjoy after her life was cut short. And my mother did exactly what I needed her to do. She brought the mallard to a wildlife rehabilitation center.

My hopes crashed when we were turned away because they had no space to care for one more animal.

We took the duck to the vet. My hopes crashed again when the vet didn’t give the duck a hope in the world of surviving. And again, my mother did exactly what I needed her to do. She brought the duck home. And what happened over the next four months touched me deeply—changed me. What happened next is what my nonfiction picture book is about. With hopes, after sending my manuscript out into the world of agents, I’ll gain the interest of one who will feel my story needs to be shared.  

As always, it’s hard to write with one’s fingers crossed.

All the best.