For Ages
8 to 12

For fans of Balto and other real-life dog stories, here's a heavily illustrated middle-grade novel about a canine movie star of the 1920s, dramatically told in both words and pictures by an acclaimed author and a Caldecott Medal-winning illustrator.

When movie director Larry Trimble travels to Berlin searching for his next big star--a dog!--he finds Etzel, a fierce, highly trained three-year-old German shepherd police dog. Larry sees past the snarls and growls and brings Etzel back to Hollywood, where he is renamed Strongheart. Along with screenwriter Jane Murfin, Larry grooms his protégé to be a star of the silver screen--and he succeeds, starting with Strongheart's first film, The Love Master, which is released in 1921. Strongheart is soon joined by a leading lady, a German shepherd named Lady Julie, and becomes a sensation.

Touching, charming, playful, and based on real events, this moving tale by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Eric Rohmann tells all about "the wonder dog" who took America by storm.


An Excerpt fromStrongheart: Wonder Dog of the Silver Screen

On a farm between the Bavarian Alps and the city of Berlin, a carefree puppy named Etzel played in a sun-washed barnyard.
He chased the chickens, barking in delight at their squawks and flaps.
He tipped over his water bowl, splashing and sliding in sloppy-fun mud.
And he gulped down the last of his kibble, licking the bowl to shiny emptiness. 
At last, tired and full, he flopped onto the squirming puppies nestled in the curve of his mother’s belly.
His sister, Greta, nipped his ear.
His brother, Otto, yipped a complaint.
But Etzel just wiggled down between them and sighed.
His family. 
He had just closed his eyes, when—
“Here’s a big, handsome one,” a man’s voice boomed.
Rough hands tore Etzel away from his family and held him high.
The puppy whimpered. His paws flailed in the suddenly cold air.
“Look at those markings,” the voice boomed again. “Only purebred German shepherds have those. And what fine teeth . . .”
Rude fingers pulled back Etzel’s lips.
“With the right training, they could tear a man to shreds. Should we take him?”
Ja, take him,” rumbled a second voice. “And we will turn him into the fiercest guard dog on the Berlin police force.”
Etzel was shoved into a canvas bag.
His mother barked.
Greta and Otto yelped.
In the bag’s darkness, Etzel whined.

Under the Cover