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Strongheart: Wonder Dog of the Silver Screen

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  255 ratings  ·  83 reviews
A heavily illustrated middle-grade novel based on real events about a canine movie star of the 1920s.

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 Str
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published February 6th 2018 by Schwartz & Wade Books
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4.09  · 
Rating details
 ·  255 ratings  ·  83 reviews

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Joyce Yattoni
I picked this book up because of the gorgeous cover of a German Shepherd dog; the illustrations within the book are stunning. I have quite a few students who love dog stories this year. This is a gem in that it is also historical fiction. We have all heard of Lassie, but this story is about the silent film dog star Strongheart. Fascinating story about how this fierce police trained dog stole the hearts of viewers in America. The book also got me doing a little research into silent movies of the ...more
Ms. Yingling
Dec 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Copy graciously provided by the publisher

When film director Larry Trimble decides that the next big thing for Hollywood movies should be a dog, he and his assistant Jane find a German Shepherd puppy who proves to be just right. The German born Etzel is rechristened Strongheart and after some training, begins his career in films with The Silent Call. Strongheart is an uncanny actor, and Trimble feels that he can actually communicate with the dog. The films are a success, and Strongheart endorses
This copy was provided by the publisher for an honest review.
Let’s be real from the start. I am by all definitions a dog person. I love dogs and have lived with them my entire life. So when it comes to dog stories, I am picky. I want all the emotions to fly when I read one. I want to feel their love, angst and utter joy through the words in the story. Strongheart is wonderful. I had never heard of this star of the silver screen until today. Between the words and amazing illustrations, I was enc
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Caldecott-winning medalist Rohmann’s beautiful illustrations accompany Fleming’s riveting text about Strongheart, the first dog to have a starring role on the silver screen. This rich historical fiction account is mesmerizing and I am still astonished that I knew nothing about this amazing dog. I breathed dogs morning, noon & night as a child, yet always thought Rin-Tin-Tin began it all in Hollywood. Fleming is well-known for her brilliant research and readers will dive into this only to eme ...more
Joy Smith
Jan 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: middle-school, tween
I enjoyed this story--based on fact (look him up; I always want to find out what really happened). I've read about him before--in Kinship with All Life, as I recall, and elsewhere. It's considered juvenile fiction, but I enjoyed it; and I love the illustrations--lots of them--with two pages of actual photos from his life at the end. It has adventure and suspense and a rough beginning.

Note: Back in the day GSDs had level backs--before they bred them into triangles. I used to have German Shepherds
Striking oil paint illustrations complement a heartfelt story about Strongheart, a German shepherd trained as an attack guard dog by Germans. The young dog, called Etzel, started life as an adorable puppy, but his playfulness was quickly extinguished by cruel treatment from his trainer. When director Larry Trimble went in search of a dog to star in one of his silent films, he was drawn to Etzel. The dog was wary at first, and didn't even know how to play with toys, but eventually he came to trus ...more
Kris Patrick
Nov 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
A darling book that could find a home in every school library with its accessibility as an illustrated novel and its great appeal as a dog story. And no talking dogs!! Because don't talk!

Admittedly, German Shepherds scare me but they have a special place in my heart because my Grandpa had them and I swear there are no less than four in my smallish neighborhood subdivision.
Accessible text, beautiful & moving illustrations scattered throughout, well developed characters (both human & canine), adventure, peril, charming voices of other historical characters (the orphan boys, the Hollywood reporter)- a winner! I love this dog!
May 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: martha Lambertsen
Action, suspense, romance, a movie star and a dog, a winning combination. Based on the true life of a
real German Shepherd, our hero set the stage for a whole new genre of Hollywood movies. Soft, black and white illustrations perfectly convey the dog's emotions. A real crowd pleaser.
Hoover Public Library Kids and Teens
The first canine film star was plucked from the police force in Berlin. The movies were silent, but Strongheart was a dog of nobility and passion. Who needed sound? Rohmann's illustrations really invoke the drama, both onscreen and off.
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great "dog" story and friendship story and hero story!!
The Reading Countess
Kids love books about dogs. This one is sure to be a winner with middle graders-especially third through fifth grades. Gorgeous illustrations, meticulously researched, fast moving storyline, with characters you can’t help but love. I loved the language used in the text-indicative of the 20’s. Strongheart will give readers a peek into times long gone, as well as a penchant to look up more information about this loveable pooch. Win-win!
June Jacobs
Aug 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
There are five little words on a book cover that instantly capture my interest. 'Based on a true story'. The book gets bonus points if it is historical fiction set between the turn of the twentieth century and the 1970s. More bonus points if it's about a horse or a dog. It's over-the-top if it is based on historical events which occurred in my home state of California. You can see where I'm going with this . . . 'Strongheart: Wonder Dog of the Silver Screen' is set in Hollywood of the early 1920 ...more
(Summary – book jacket)
A silent movie star … who’s a dog? That’s exactly what director Larry Trimble is in search of – and he’s willing to travel the world to find one. In Berlin, he meets the German shepherd Etzel: fierce, rough and trusting of no one. Larry sees past the police dog’s snarls and growls: he sees nobility, he sees intelligence, he sees a name in lights! With a new name, Strongheart, and a killer Hollywood script (explosions, howling, love!) it’s not long before the dog is a four-
Feb 25, 2018 rated it liked it
With the foundation of a true story and a literal underdog, Strongheart will warm the hearts of many young readers. The German Shepard was a film star in the 1920s with nation-wide fans eagerly watching his incredible stunts and show of emotions; Fleming and Rohmann work together and bring Strongheart's backstory to life with a few creative liberties for a comprehensive narrative and a message of love, hope, and family.

This sweet story is a fairly quick read due to the combination of text and be
Jul 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this tale of Strongheart, based on the true story of a 1920's german shepherd film star. The black and white oil painted illustrations of young "Etzel" from a small puppy are so realistically depicted and endearing, you are hooked immediately. Etzel began his young life as an abused but highly effective police dog. Luck turned his life around when talented film maker Larry Trimble and his screen writer partner Jane Murfin searched for the perfect star for their innovative tale, about a d ...more
Mar 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
I had never heard of this famous movie dog before; he starred in silent films and his career began two years before Rin Tin Tin. This book for middle grade readers is quite adorable; it's a fictionalized version of his life--trained as a police dog in Germany and then "discovered" by a Hollywood director who has to retrain him to be gentle, but he turns out to be a "natural" in front of the camera! He even had to convince a judge he was innocent when he was accused of attacking a little girl, in ...more
Dec 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Strongheart" is illustrated children's fiction based on the true story of a movie star dog. We follow Strongheart's life from when he was chosen to be a police dog as a puppy, to his being chosen to be a movie dog and his learning how to play again, to the filming of two of his movies: The Silent Call (1921) and The Love Master (1924), to incidents that happened on publicity tours. The author took information that is known about Strongheart and used that information (while filling in the unknow ...more
Juvenile fiction based on the true story of Strongheart, a german shephard, who was a star in silent movies in the USA. Interesting story and would appeal to animal lovers and particularly dog lovers! A word of caution that in the first few chapters the dog is treated harshly/abused before he finally is rescued by Trimble the director who casts him in movies and keeps him for his own. But once that part is over the story is very entertaining. The story is told with words and illustrations ( simi ...more
Nov 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read this at school during a "musical chairs" activity, because it was new on our shelves and I wanted to be able to have some idea what it was about. It's a very engaging story based on a real-life cinema star from the silent movies - a German shepherd star! I had never heard of him before and I loved learning more. The book is heavily illustrated by Caldecott medalist Eric Rohmann, which makes the reading quick and enjoyable. The B&W pencil illustrations are beautiful!
It is definitely w
Mar 31, 2018 rated it liked it
I prefer Fleming's nonfiction to her fiction, and kind of wish that this was the former. Making Strongheart into a psychic English-language understander stretched the boundaries of acceptance for me. Although my kids will love it.

Also, I was confused by Jane and Larry's relationship ... I had been under the impression from Emily Arnold McCully's book that they were a couple, but they were just working partners in this one. Although Jane seemed to be in love with Larry. I just looked it up, and
Read  Ribbet
Candace Fleming adds another good title to her long list of accessible and acceptable books for intermediate grade readers. This book blurs the line of genres by being based on a true story but written with some definite fictionalized narrative. It would be a great mentor text for writing in in a similar style. Eric Rohmann adds a number of soft pencil black and write drawings to support the text. Limited text on each page provides a format that might be attractive to some readers. The dog story ...more
Read for Battle of the Books.

I really enjoy Candace Fleming's writing. This story is about a sweet German shepherd who gets brutally trained to be a police dog, only to be rejected by them and picked up by a oddball movie director who turned him into a star. Based on a true story, so the trial against Strongheart happened, I'm still mindboggled at the fact in the 1920s people could think a dog would be able to kill and eat a 6 year old girl in a few minutes and not end up covered in blood. Yay
Oct 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-36
Young Etzel was trained as a police dog in Germany when he was discovered by American movie director Larry Timble. Larry saw something in Etzels’ eyes and knew that he would be a star. Gaining his trust was a difficult job for Larry. Renamed Strongheart, he became a movie idol in the silent films of the 1920’s. His fans adored him but one day he was accused of attacking a young girl by some dishonest people. The trial was quite suspenseful, as dramatic and one of his movies! Readers will enjoy t ...more
Based on a true story, evident by 4 vintage photos with author's note at end of the book. As silent films were beginning, Larry Trimble was certain that he could find the right dog and that Jane Murfin could write a script and they could have a different kind of film star. German Shepherd Etzel, renamed Strongheart, was the dog who understood and could convey emotions. He starred in six movies from 1921-1927. He had other remarkable qualities as well. Plenty of B&W illustrations round out a ...more
Jarm Boccio
Jan 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow! As I was reading, I was convinced Strongheart was a human and not an animal. Candace, once again, has made her character come alive! I winced as I felt every kick of the boot, and rejoiced with Strongheart in his triumphs. What an incredible canine. What an adored actor. . . to kids and adults alike. The pencil/charcoal drawings by her partner Eric are warm, expressive and captivating. Together, the story and illustrations blend to create one fantastic story of a little known star. Now I wa ...more
Apr 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
This fiction story is based on the real life story of Strongheart, a dog actor in the 1920s. Director Larry Trimble was looking for a dog to make a star when he came across Strongheart at a Berlin Police Station. Strongheart was just what Larry was looking for, a gorgeous, intelligent, and dramatic dog. Strongheart's acting abilities are amazing, but he also proves to be a superstar for his helpfulness and loyalty. I know many readers who enjoy books featuring dogs and I think they will enjoy re ...more
Apr 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kid-s-animals
Before there was Lassie, there was Strongheart. This charming dog story is based on the true story of a police-trained German Shepherd who became a huge silent movie star. Beautiful black and white illustrations by Caldecott award-winning illustrator Eric Rohmann add to the appeal. Young readers third grade-up will love reading about this famous canine. Clever and fun dialogue from the silent movie era ("cat's whiskers!") will also delight readers. Go to this link: ...more
Mar 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: 2-3rd grade children who love dogs
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Everyone who knows me well knows that I am NOT a dog lover. However, I ate this book up from beginning to end and read it in one afternoon. Now I am giving it to my kids and my husband, who are dog lovers, to read.

The fact that this book is based on the story of the real Strongheart makes the story all the more enjoyable.

I can tell already that this will be a much loved book as soon as I can add it to my school library.
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I have always been a storyteller. Even before I could write my name, I could tell a good tale. And I told them all the time. As a preschooler, I told my neighbors all about my three-legged cat named Spot. In kindergarten, I told my classmates about the ghost that lived in my attic. And in first grade I told my teacher, Miss Harbart, all about my family's trip to Paris, France.

I told such a good st