The Great Northern Race is not an ordinary dog sled race. It happens only once a generation, and the prize is remarkable: The first team to arrive at the Snowfather’s Palace at the top of the world has its greatest wish granted. (The last winner became enormously rich.)

Shen and Sika want to win the race so they can help Sika’s grandpa get well again. They have an old sled and a team of dogs — but these are not ordinary sled dogs. These are pugs. They have a team of sixty-six pugs to pull their sled.

When Shen and Sika see the competition their up against, they’re not sure they have a chance of winning.

Professor Shakleton Jones shows up with an ultra-lightweight sled pulled by robot dogs.

Helga Hammerfest’s sled is harnessed to her two pet polar bears.

Mitzi von Primm actually does have huskies, but she has clipped them to look like poodles and dyed them pink to match her racing outfit.

Worst of all is Sir Basil. He’s the son of the previous winner, and he arrives with a pedigree dog team and a butler. He’s determined to win no matter what — even it means he has to cheat.

Shen and Sika definitely have an adventure coming — one that will involve detours, danger, and a yeti noodle bar (think: Bigfoot eats pasta).


Genre: fantasy, humor

Grade 3-5.


J’s take on it:

This has been a really fun book to booktalk for 4th and 5th graders this spring. After I give the title, I ask the class if they all know what pugs are. I usually get a big round of “Yes!” Then I say, “They’re really big dogs, right?” The kids are eager to correct me — “No, they’re small!” — and everyone is set up for the absurdity of a team of sled-pulling pugs.

The illustrations by Sarah McIntyre perfectly capture the humor in this book. I usually show the pages with Professor Shakleton Jones and his robot dogs, Helga Hammerfest’s pet polar bears, and Mitzi von Primm’s poor husky poodles. Plus the yeti noodle bar.

Kids have been really enthusiastic about this title. More than once, students have come up afterward to ask if they can keep my copy of the book.

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