Champ's Story: Dogs Get Cancer Too!

School Library Journal - October 2010

Gr 1-3-While practicing for the upcoming agility show, Cody notices a lump on his dog's belly, which turns out to be cancer. The treatment is similar to what a human endures, and Cody is filled with worry for his pet. Champ is able to participate in the show, but it is Cody who has trouble when he trips and hurts his ankle. Now it's Champ's turn to take care of Cody, and she proves she is a real champion. Children will have empathy for both characters. The book includes extensive curriculum-related back matter that will assist teachers and parents as they share this title with kids who have similar concerns, and the publisher's website has additional resources. A sincere, caring story told with a straightforward, honest approach - Helen Foster James

Midwest Book Review - September 2010

Medical writer and award-winning children's author Sherry North presents Champ's Story: Dogs Get Cancer Too, a picturebook that will help young people better understand cancer - a disease known to strike animals as well as humans. Young Cody learns to take care of his beloved dog Champ, who undergoes many of the same treatments (with similar reactions) that a human might under the same circumstances. Warm color illustrations add the perfect touch to this powerful and memorable story, enhanced with four extra pages of facts about cancer in the back. Highly recommended, especially for public library children's collections.

Book Loons - January 2012

Award-winning author/medical journalist Sherry North addresses children's understanding of cancer through Champ's Story: Dogs Get Cancer Too! Kathleen Rietz's illustrations are deep, soft and in bright colors, with details of facial expressions and actions.

Live, Learn, Love - Februrary 2011

This is a tender, yet informative story for children. Though it is a heavy topic, author Sherry North tackles Champ's Story with a positive attitude. I highly recommend this book to help a child understand cancer.

Wild About Nature - November 2010

Like most dogs, Champ begins this story happy and active. One of her favorite ways to spend her time is running an obstacle course at a local park. One day, after her run, Champ’s owner, Cody, discovers a bump on Champ’s stomach. Readers soon learn that Champ has cancer. Touching illustrations depict Champ’s treatments, her good days and bad days and the constant support of her friend Cody.

The story and back matter introduce the concept of cancer, possible treatments and facts about the disease. Readers also learn about coping with both the disease and treatments, and they learn tips for cancer prevention. The text educates readers and also offers hope and inspiration to those who have pets, family or friends dealing with a cancer diagnosis.

Visit Arbordale Publishing’s website to learn more about Champ and to view the many classroom activities designed to accompany this book.

Sherry North began writing stories for children in 1999 when she was a producer for CNN Headline News. She found it refreshing to take out a notebook and 'make stuff up' after spending her day focusing on the facts. She is the author of six books for children and has had many articles published in Highlights magazine. She is currently a freelance writer and educational television producer in Florida. - Kimberly Hutmacher

Amazon Review - August 2010

I do wish there were more books of this ilk and this quality available for children.

For adults, "cancer" has become one of the most terrifying words in our language. Most adults have some understanding of this disease, and after the initial shock of the diagnosis, can rely on knowledge, maturity and practiced emotions to deal with it...on some level at least. Children on the other hand know from a very early age that fear is involved but so often do not know why. They not only have fear of something they know is "not good," but they also have a fear of the unknown, which is indeed just as traumatic.

The author, Sherry North has used the story of a young boy and his beloved pet dog to inform the younger set just what it is they are dealing with when cancer; either of a family member, loved one, friend or pet, enters their life.

Cody and his pet Champ are preparing for an agility show and Champ is running through her paces. While petting Champ, Cody discovers a lump on her side. Cody makes a good choice in telling Champ she needs to see a doctor. Cody knows there is something wrong.

The author and illustrator, Kathleen Rietz then take us upon a journey; a journey of a victim of cancer. From the visit to the doctor's office, testing and on to the diagnosis of cancer and the treatment, the reader follows step by step. The child learns what to expect and when to expect it. The young boy shows the typical emotions of a child in this situation; shares his thoughts with his friends, and above all, becomes Champ's caregiver. You can see the care and love radiating out form the illustrations and words.

The author has used straight forward simply language to tell a complex story. Her tone is matter of fact but extremely tender, loving and understanding throughout the entire work. There is nothing scary or heart wrenchingly sad about the story; it just explains in a very understandable way what a child might well face. Information will quite often take away a lot of fear and the author certainly supplies quite a lot of good and valid facts in a relatively short book. Truthfully, I was amazed at just how much information she was able to pack into so few pages.

The last four pages of the book are sort of a "cancer fact primer" for adults to use in teaching children of this subject. Facts are given so that the reader can understand just what cancer is, how it is treated, fact and fiction surrounding this disease, coping with cancer and chemo and a page on what you can do to prevent cancer as you grow up.

The art work in this book by Kathleen Rietz is extremely well executed. Each of the frames, which cover two pages each, are done in mellow and soothing colors. Each illustration fits the text perfectly. The artist has captured the mood of each picture perfectly on the face of the dog without overly anthropomorphizing her subject...I like adds much to the overall message of the book. This is a very skillful writer and skillful artist that have teamed up here!

This is an ideal work to be used in a classroom. Giving children knowledge of this disease before he or she has to actually face it, as many, many will, gives them a bit of a head start in the process of learning to deal with the many issues they will be faced. - Don Blankenship, The Ozarks

The Chronicle of the Earth - August 2010

I always love release time at Arbordale Publishing! Five new great books came out for fall 2010. I passed these around to several local homeschooling families and got some great feedback from all the mothers who previewed them.

Champ's Story: Dogs Get Cancer Too! This is a slightly longer more complex book by Sherry North, a new but promising author for Arbordale books. It has a happy ending (everyone who I shared this this book with flipped to the last page first just to make sure!) and is a good way to introduce the subject of cancer with excellent ideas and information in the back "For Creative Minds" section. And Cheers to the illustrator Kathleen Rietz who is a educator in her homeschooling community!

Katie's Literature Lounge - August 2010

Cody and his dog, Champ, have a wonderful relationship, spending lots of time together. One day, Cody notices a lump on Champ and decides to take Champ to see her doctor. The news isn't good - Champ has cancer. Champ's Story: Dogs Get Cancer Too! allows children the opportunity to understand what cancer is and what it means for those suffering. Together, Cody and Champ share with children about the diagnosis, treatment and side effects of cancer to a "patient."

This is a wonderful story for children who are experiencing dealing with cancer - either themselves, a loved one or a pet. It simplifies what cancer is all about in a way that children will easily understand, and simply answers many of the questions your child may have about the illness. Definitely a recommended read - even if your child/family isn't dealing with a cancer diagnosis, as cancer is an illness that touches so many these days.

Learning/Reading Activity:

Arbordale has put out a teaching activities packet to use in collaboration with Champ's Story: Dogs Get Cancer Too!. My favorite activity from the packet to use with the book can be found on page 21, in which character education is brought up as a main focus. The activity encourages children to think about how a cancer diagnosis impacts the patient as well as his/her family. - Katie Harvey

In the Pages - August 2010

Another box I never tire of is Arbordale's latest releases. I LOVE their focus on Science and Math and the supporting materials they offer. Their website is just loaded with great resources for teachers and parents - really, they are NOT to be missed!

Champ's Story: Dogs Get Cancer Too! by Sherry North. This is a story that so many will relate to - whether you need a book explaining the effects of cancer or a story for a little child that has lost someone to cancer - this is a great starting point. When this young boy's dog develops cancer, children can follow along to learn the treatments and feelings that may go along with this disease. It is a tender story that children will come back to - one we can really use with kids that need an "understanding read"! (Ages 4-9)- Becky Bilby - July 2010

Change the future of cancer one child at a time is ASCEND's vision for their foundation; they are striving to "imagine a world without cancer." This mission is their national initiative and one most of us can support. In 2010 (this year) ASCEND partnered with Arbordale Publishing to help raise awareness of cancer but in this case the patient is a golden retriever and the caretaker is a young boy. Anyone who knows me immediately understands the relevance of this book and the effect it will have on me.

Champ's Story: Dogs Get Cancer Too! immediately brought back a flood of memories, some painful and some heartwarming. Poignant memories of a dog valiantly fighting cancer while bolstering herself with love (and mischievousness) as we bolstered her with medical treatments and medication (as well as love) reminded me of my personal mission. Dogs get cancer and it's not always a canine form—sometimes it's a human form (I strive to raise the awareness of humans about canine cancer). Sherry North's story about Champ and his human companion Cody provides tools that might foster an understanding of cancer with the hope that children can transfer this awareness to human friends.

Cody and Champ are training on an agility course when the book opens. He's enthusiastically racing through tunnels, jumping hurdles and climbing ladders. Cody is convinced his Champ will "ace the agility show." While resting and snuggling Cody felt a strange lump beneath the soft fur—he was immediately concerned. Most children sense the need and urgency to have those examined by doctors.

At the doctor's office he heard the dreaded phrase, "Champ has cancer." The doctor explained, "Like people, a dog's body is made of tiny blobs called cells. Sometimes these cells grow the wrong way and make the body sick....Patients can seem fine even though they're sick inside."  Together they all planned Cody's treatments that involved medication and regular visits to the vet.

Champ appears puny, sad, tired and with an IV port. Champ had to undergo chemotherapy, but fortunately he didn't lose hair.  Our dog's oncologist explained that dog chemotherapy isn't necessarily as tough on their bodies as the human form, but we don't really see Champ suffering. Belle had radiation treatment rather than chemo and the medication made her frighteningly sick for a while. Her blond face turned ash gray for several days after treatment but we don't see this response with Champ. Instead we see an athletic dog fighting off cancer.

The author raises our awareness of canine cancer with optimism. While this story is about Champ's cancer the message is more for children fighting cancer. Sherry North uses Champ to help introduce this serious topic to young children. She uses language young readers can understand. She depicts Cody as a dedicated and sensitive caretaker—perhaps this can provide tools for children with friends or siblings fighting this disease.

The author partnered with illustrator Kathleen Rietz, whose compassion portrays the endearing relationship between the boy and his dog.  Cody is lucky in that Champ overcomes his cancer. Rietz's illustrations are as warm and optimistic as the story. I found this picturebook and the story about cancer very appropriate for young readers.

As with all other Arbordale Publishing books, this concludes with four pages of Creative Minds activities. In this case I can see the activities being used by teachers (including home school teachers), parents, doctors, and hospitals. Definitions and explanations are simple enough for five to ten year old readers. Regarding cancer cells, "Whether you are a person or a puppy, your body is made up of trillions of tiny cells, the body's building blocks. Sometimes, a few cells take on the wrong shape or size and grow out of control. These abnormal cells are known as cancer."

Understanding Cancer, the first page in Creative Minds, further discusses who gets cancer, what are chemotherapy and radiation therapy, as well as ongoing cancer research. Activities include some True/False questions and finding healthy habits. Further explanations address coping with cancer and chemotherapy. Online activities at http://www.arbordalepublishing/ offers web resources, reading and classroom activities, and printable copies of the Creative Minds pages.

Cancer is a disease that affects all of us at some point. My dog had cancer (twice—two different types) and while writing my thoughts for this book my dad called to say he has decided to fight his leukemia and take the recommended chemo. His doctor explained it shouldn't extend beyond four treatments and with him being so healthy (other than leukemia) he should beat it. His condition finally sounds optimistic. Cancer is a scary word, "your — has cancer" is one of the scariest statements we'll ever hear, but the hopeful and informative approach of Sherry North's Champ's Story: Dogs Get Cancer Too might alleviate some of the fear and mystery. It should encourage family and friends to become supportive caretakers. Arbordale Publishing has partnered with ASCEND to help support the "Champ the Cancer Companion" initiative and their vision for changing the future of cancer one child at a time.

This doesn't go into causes or details and it probably shouldn't as the goal is simply awareness and optimism. I'm personally grateful Champ was not a blond lab although my heart twisted several times when Cody gave his dog medication camouflaged in peanut butter. We went through several jars of peanut butter during her treatments. I recommend this book for anyone facing cancer issues in their family (including the furry members), for teachers or school librarians, veterinarians and pediatric oncologists.

My thanks to Arbordale Publishing for providing this review copy in exchange for an honest opinion. My opinion, however, was tainted by emotional memories. 
-Patsy Side