The best middle grade sled-dog books

Who am I?

Sled dog racing? I knew nothing about it most of my life. I became interested after writing a nonfiction book on the history of sled dog racing. So interested, I wrote a novel on it—Cookie Cutters & Sled Runners. I attended local sprint races and even traveled to Alaska to see the start of the Iditarod. I learned so much watching the mushers prepare and the excitement of the dogs. I still enjoy watching the Iditarod, the Yukon Quest, and local sprint races. I’m excited to share a list of great sled-dog books. What I like about my list is that all the books are so different! 


I wrote...

Cookie Cutters & Sled Runners

By Natalie Rompella,

Book cover of Cookie Cutters & Sled Runners

What is my book about?

For years, Ana and Lily have been looking forward to writing and selling their own cookbook for their middle school project. So when her teacher assigns her to a different partner, Ana is devasted.

Worse, Ana’s partner, the new girl from Alaska, wants to do their project on sled dog racing in the Midwest. There’s no way Ana can tell Dasher about her obsessive-compulsive disorder, or why even watching Dasher work with drooly, germy dogs makes Ana want to wash her hands. Then Dasher sprains her ankle, and the only way to avoid getting an F on their project is for Ana to take her spot in the race. Can Ana learn to mush—and overcome her anxiety—in time to save her friendships, finish her project, and compete in the sled dog race?

The books I picked & why

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Dog Driven

By Terry Lynn Johnson,

Book cover of Dog Driven

Why this book?

Terry Lynn Johnson has written many books on sled dogs. Dog Driven does a great job of sharing what a junior race is like: the competitiveness, the setbacks, and the thrill of the sport. It also addresses facing an issue head-on. In this book, the main character is struggling with worsening eyesight. I think middle grade readers will relate to feeling apprehensive when facing something difficult. 


Diamond Willow

By Helen Frost,

Book cover of Diamond Willow

Why this book?

This is my new favorite book. It takes place in a remote town in Alaska where residents must travel by dog sled. Each page has a poem written in a diamond shape that contains a hidden message. Not many books have such a unique format. But what really made the book exciting were the many twists and turns in the plot. (I also learned about diamond willow, but I won’t spoil it for you!)


Dashing Through the Snow, the Story of the Jr. Iditarod

By Sherry Shahan,

Book cover of Dashing Through the Snow, the Story of the Jr. Iditarod

Why this book?

Dashing Through the Snow tells readers what it’s like to compete in the Jr. Iditarod. This nonfiction book was a great resource when I was doing research for my book. Not only was the text great, but there were photos showing various aspects of the race, including what it’s like to sleep on the side of a sled-dog trail. Anyone who’s interested in the sport and hasn’t heard of a “gangline” or a “dropped dog” will find the definitions in the glossary useful. 


Sled Dog School

By Terry Lynn Johnson,

Book cover of Sled Dog School

Why this book?

Yes, I chose a second book by Terry Lynn Johnson. The two books I chose are quite different in both subject matter and tone though. This book is a light-hearted story about eleven-year-old Matt who starts his own business for his school project. He chooses sled-dog training. I’ve always loved books about kid-run businesses, and this one has a great cast of characters.


Balto of the Blue Dawn

By Mary Pope Osborne, Sal Murdocca (illustrator),

Book cover of Balto of the Blue Dawn

Why this book?

This sled dog book is both fantasy and historical fiction—a truly unique genre mix. Jack and Annie travel back to Nome in 1925 during the diphtheria epidemic to help with the sled dog relay to deliver the serum. The Author’s Note at the end tells a bit more about the history of the serum race. This book is part of the Magic Tree House’s Merlin Mission series, which is for readers who want a bit more of a challenge. 


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