“Byrd & Igloo: A Polar Adventure,” by Samantha Seiple. Scholastic Press. $16.99.
Packed with history, travel and a powerful relationship, this engaging children’s story is the perfect book-report project or simply a riveting read packed with large doses of sentiment.
Adm. Richard Byrd, an early 20th century American hero goes everywhere with his four-legged friend, a fox terrier found cold, shivering and homeless on the streets of Washington, D.C., the winter of 1926.
The rescuer, Maris Boggs, 37, can’t keep the puppy but she manages to provide for it short term. While reading a newspaper weeks after rescuing the dog, she spots an article about the intrepid Byrd and his plans to become the first person to fly over the North Pole.
Recognizing she met him before, Boggs calls Byrd and offers him the puppy. But with his busy lifestyle and North Pole plans, he declines. With dogged determination, she doesn’t relent and Byrd eventually agrees to adopt the onetime waif a ship’s crew names Igloo.
Thereafter, Seiple takes the young reader from the top of the world (North Pole) to the bottom (South Pole) with Byrd and his four-legged Velcro mate along with some White House hero recognition stops in between. Keep in mind, this is a short-coated animal that steadfastly sticks with his owner in sub-zero temperatures for days at both ends of the world and on lengthy ship voyages to his target destinations.
In the process, Igloo is both possessive and protective of Byrd. During one lengthy voyage, he camps beneath a chair on which Byrd is relaxing. When a crew member walks too close to the chair – in Igloo’s opinion – the dog feigned an attack, barking savagely.
Byrd’s response, “Neither modesty nor humility, I regret to say, was in his attitude.”
While on a rare speaking engagement tour without Igloo in April 1931, the adventurer receives word his buddy is very ill. Cancelling all lectures and meetings for the week, he hops on the next train to Boston but arrives home after Igloo dies.
A broken-hearted Byrd says, “Igloo cannot be replaced. Those of you who are dogs’ friends know that dog can be, and usually is, a better friend to his master than he is to himself.”
The stone over his grave reflects that, too: “He Was More Than A Friend.”