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The Picture Book Buzz

Odin: Hero Dog of the Fires - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

After I watched Bambi as I child, I had nightmares about fires for years. Sweat drenching, scream inducing nightmares. I never remembered the actual nightmare, as much as the terror I felt and the need to hug my mom.

A small, deeply hidden, part of me was concerned when I first looked at this book. How scary would this be for the next generation? For me? But, ultimately, my love for dogs, and dog books, overcame any hesitancy. I was relieved and excited to discover a touching tale of a devoted dog who battled one of the worst fires in California history to save a herd of goats.

I am privileged to offer you a sneak peek at a wonderful informational fiction book about an amazingly brave dog - Odin. Be sure to check it out when it releases next Tuesday.

Odin: Hero Dog of the Fires

Author: Emma Bland Smith

Illustrator: Carrie Salazar

Publisher: West Margin Press (2020)

Ages: 5-8

Informational fiction


Dogs, goats, California wildfire, bravery, and dedication


The incredible true story of one dog’s heroic feats during the 2017 Tubbs Fire, one of the most destructive wildfires in California history.

One October night in 2017, when wildfire raged in Sonoma and Napa counties, the Hendel family was suddenly evacuated from their home and farm to escape to safety and forced to leave behind their Pyrenees dog, Odin. Odin refused to leave his nightly post of guarding the family’s eight young goats, despite the family’s desperate attempts to lead him away. Brokenhearted, the Hendels were sure they would never see their dog again.

But when the fire calmed and the family returned home, to their shock they found Odin singed yet safe, along with all the goats and several orphaned deer the dog had protected as well. Odin, Dog Hero of the Fires is a touching and inspirational true tale that honors the bravery and strength of Odin as well as commemorates the stories of those affected by the Tubbs Fire.

Opening Lines:

Darkness sets in. I take over for my sister. Woof!

Your turn to sleep, Tessa! I’m on guard duty now!

“Good boy, Odin!” Roland pats me and heads into the house.

Ariel says goodnight to the goats—and to me, too.

“See you tomorrow, Odin!” She kisses me right on my nose. I lick her face and she laughs.

What I loved about this book:

Telling the story of the devastating 2017 California wildfire from the point of view of a brave and dedicated dog, who not only survived but protected other animals, is ingenious. It brings a large, overwhelming catastrophe (losing one's house and land) down to a level that kids can identify with. Down to burned paws, parched throat, and a desire to protect one's friends.

Text © Emma Bland Smith, 2020. Image © Carrie Salazar, 2020.

The book opens just before the fire forces the family's evacuation. Establishing the dog's affection for its doggy sister, humans, and "wards" - the goats. Just moments before the peaceful area is engulfed in flames.

Text © Emma Bland Smith, 2020. Image © Carrie Salazar, 2020.

After briefly touching on the heartbreaking decision facing Odin to either flee with his family & sister or stay to protect the young goats, Emma Bland Smith and Carrie Salazar place us into Odin's paws as his world burns to the ground. As the barn explodes and the farmhouse blazes, he searches for a way to save the goats.

Ultimately Odin herds his flock of goats past the flames and ash to a pile of rocks on the hill. Hoping the fire would not reach them. The next day, he continues to guard the goats and two fawns, despite his weariness. Salazar's illustrations are sure to inspire empathy for the animals caught in the Californian, Australian, or any other wildfires.

Text © Emma Bland Smith, 2020. Image © Carrie Salazar, 2020.

The ending is touching and encouraging. The back matter includes the author's direct experience with the fire and additional information about the Hendels - Odin's family - and fun facts about the Great Pyrenees dog. Overall, this is a wonderful book for dog lovers and developing empathy for the people and animals experiencing wildfires around the world.


- learn about Smokey the Bear and preventing wildfires (, then make stick puppets and put on your own show. (

- check out the Forest Science activities for older kids (

- describe or draw a picture of your favorite dog.

- write a story or draw a picture of Odin's next adventure.

If you missed the interview of Emma Bland Smith on Monday, find it (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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