Swamp Cat

Our rating: ***½

Frosty is a black kitten who lives in a shed in a town. His owners pay a man named Luke Trull to take Frosty and his siblings and find them some homes. Unfortunately, Luke is dishonest and instead of doing what he promised, he merely dumps the kittens in the hill country where he lives. Frosty makes his way to a meadow and learns how to survive in the wild. One night, however, Frosty is picked up by an owl and rescued by Andy Gates, a young man who is living alone in a swamp that he is trying to stock with muskrats. Frosty decides to live with Andy, and Andy enjoys Frosty’s company. But then Andy finds Luke Trull spying on him, loses his temper, and hits Luke. Not being of a forgiving nature, Luke holds a grudge and sets out for revenge.

I was a bit surprised at the ending of this book. It resolves in a rather unexpected way. I also found a few parts where Jim Kjelgaard was a little wordy, but most of the book flows pretty well. The story switches between Frosty and Andy, though sometimes they are together for a short while. Sadly, this book is out of print so you may have to juggle your way through inter-library loans to find a copy.

Two Dogs and a Horse

Our rating: ***½

To start with, this book is made up of three unrelated short stories. The first, A Dog Remembers is about a large, friendly dog named Brad that comes to town one day with his master. The townspeople joke about Brad, saying that the dog is a lion. When Brad’s master is killed by another dog, Brad gets the blame. After all, he’s a big dog. Throughout the story, Brad tries to avoid the other dog and later on tries to find another master.

The second story is called The Black Horse. Jed Hale, lured by his employer’s reward of five hundred dollars, sets out to capture a wild black horse. This is no easy task. The horse is a said to be a killer and Jed has been crippled since childhood. Jed finally trails the horse to a ravine that is blocked on one side by an impassable swamp. The horse gets scared by a landslide and jumps into the swamp. Jed, not willing to leave the horse, must rescue it all by himself.

The last story The Lake and the Lonely Exiles is (surprise, surprise) about another dog. This dog lives on a farm and is quite happy. Then the farmer goes away on vacation, leaving the farm to a caretaker. The dog, who looks like a wolf, is blamed for killing sheep. Rather than kill the dog, the caretaker does what he thinks is the easy way out and dumps the dog on a lonely road. The dog ends up near a lake and adopts an injured goose as a companion.

I can’t decide which story I like the most. There are only two animal characters that have names. In the first story there’s Brad and in the third there is a mule named Adolph Hitler. I don’t believe that there is any bad language in any of these stories. This is a short book, but it is also very enjoyable.

Trailing Trouble

Our rating: ****

Trailing Trouble is “an adventure-mystery about a young game warden, his pinto pony, and Smoky, the dog with ‘a nose for trouble.'” Many people think it would be a good idea to make a National Park of the Gistache, but somebody obviously doesn’t share their sentiments. Bad things start to happen, and Tom Rainse thinks that this is more than the usual small band of poachers…

Well, I can’t say much more, because, after all, this is a mystery. I wouldn’t want to spoil anything, would I? Another fun Kjelgaard book, overall. The dialogue between Tom and his friend, Buck, is very comical at times. I am sorry to say, though, that Trailing Trouble ends just as abruptly as some of the other Kjelgaards. The climax occurs at the third paragraph from the end. But that’s okay. It still works.

Irish Red

Our rating: ***½

All of Big Red’s puppies show great prospect for becoming skilled hunters. All except Mike, that is. As the runt of the litter, coupled with his mischievous behavior, Danny has no hope for him. But Mr. Haggin starts wondering if English Setters would be better hunters than Irish Setters. Then, when Mike starts to do some growing up, they think he may just be the dog for the job.

Warning: This is definitely a dog book. But if you liked Big Red, you’ll like this one. You can read about one of Mike’s brothers, Sean, in Outlaw Red.

Wildlife Cameraman

Our rating: ****

Jase Mason plans to spend the summer in the wilderness with his Airedale terrier, Buckles, and his cameras in an attempt to fulfill his dream of becoming a famous wildlife photographer. While they’re there, however, they experience a run-in with a well-known poacher, the Cat Bird, and, with the help of Tom Rainse, they have to track down him down and deal with a huge, renegade black bear.

I enjoyed this one more than I had expected to. Wildlife Cameraman provides a good look at just how much work went into taking a picture. After all, this book is from the 1950s, and using a camera required more than just pushing a button, as it does today. Now, I may have rated this one more than most people because I like wildlife and I like cameras, but I do recommend it. As a note, this is the same Tom Rainse and Jase Mason in A Nose for Trouble and Hidden Trail