This is a true story of the survival of 19th-century explorer John Muir and the mysterious little black dog Stickeen on their thrilling adventure through the treacherous mountains and glaciers of southeastern Alaska during a snowstorm in the summer of 1880. Rubay’s vigorous retelling of the story follows the unlikely pair on their unforgettable, life-changing journey to bring of death and back. The first-person narrative is interspersed with “conversations” rendered through Muir’s interpretations of Stickeen’s expressive face and eyes. Canyon’s illustrations capture all the drama and desolation of the Alaskan landscape, conveying in breathtaking imagery the tremendous courage and ingenuity required of the twosome confronted by the powerful forces of nature. The book concludes with a list of sources and a brief account of Muir’s life and his eventual heartrending separation from brave little dog Stickeen.
— Bloomsbury Review – Melanie Gregg (September/October 2005)
This little story is involving, well told, and captivating. The illustrations are wonderful; the drawings of the glaciers and of Muir seem larger than life. The book is altogether delightful, with a little biographical information at the end, as well as the history of the story. Muir apparently actually had this experience with a little dog.
— Children’s Book & Play Review – Brigham Young University
Who doesn’t love a John Muir story? Every year that I visit the always impressive and stupefying Yosemite, I make it a point to attend one of the monologues put on by Lee Stetson. I don’t want to call him an impersonator per se; he’s far too talented for that, but I suppose actor might be appropriate. He’s a dead ringer for Muir and talks in this quaint, pioneer-like tone, something that harkens images of Muir’s treks in the rugged wilderness cloaked in his solitude. I highly recommend getting a ticket yourself for his show, if you’re ever out this way. If not, you’ll enjoy the tale of Stickeen, one that was certainly new to me, but apparently was Muir’s favorite to tell.
Donnell Rubey serves as an interpreter of sorts in presenting Muir’s languid, verbose and antiquated recounting of the tale to children, but she stays true to Muir’s style and knack for storytelling. The plot is a simple, but highly dramatic one. Stickeen was a little dog (named after an Indian tribe) lent to Muir for one his travels in the glacier-filled world of Alaska. One particular journey that took the better part of a day led them over crevasses, deep canyon-like cavities in the glaciers (let’s just say you don’t want to fall down into one of the bottomless-looking pits). While most were passable there was one that proved quite treacherous, one that even stopped eager beaver Stickeen from attempting to cross. It was too late to turn back, but Muir and Stickeen were uncertain if they would even be able to cross safely. How did they do? You’ll have to read to find out.
This book is an absolute gem. Christopher Canyon’s illustrations are simply lifelike. I could just see myself reach through the book to touch Muir’s coarse, wiry, frigid beard or feel the snowflakes hitting my face (I sure am glad to live in Southern California !) as I watch the mountains giants in the background. Equally effective in this book is the presentation of a unique, temporary friendship between a man and a dog, a friendship that dramatically changed in the face of adversity. The short-lived nature of their friendship will have children questioning what is in the best interest of our companion animals, a question they should always entertain.
— Vegbooks – Carolyn M. Mullin (December 15, 2011)
This was a favorite story of the famous naturalist, John Muir. It tells of an Alaskan canoe trip made in 1880. The little dog Stickeen was brought along by its owner but, unlike most dogs, remained aloof from its human companions. One day, Muir set out to explore a huge glacier and Stickeen insisted on going along. As daylight began to fade and a storm came up, they came to an enormous crevasse. The only way across was on a thin ice bridge, difficult and dangerous for the man, almost impossible for the dog. When brave little Stickeen finally made it to the other side, he was wild with joy. From that time on a close bond existed between them, one that never left John Muir’s heart. Christopher Canyon’s extraordinary illustrations, replete with color and detail, bring the story vividly to life. Ages 4 and up.
— Light of Consciousness (Winter 2002)
Stickeen is one of those classic man-and-his-faithful-companion stories that easily win children’s hearts. This is a captivating introduction to the life and values of John Muir. The text is adapted from Muir’s original account and the grand illustrations evoke the glacial wilderness of southeastern Alaska in hauntingly windswept icy blues. Even upper elementary age children will be pulled in by this dramatic story.
— Center for Environmental Education – Antioch
. . . Many people know about John Muir’s travels through California and the West, but how many know that in 1880 he went trekking in Alaska? Stickeen was a funny looking little dog that insisted on going along with Muir to explore the icy wilderness. The man and dog became trapped on a glacier and had to negotiate a perilous ice bridge that threatened to collapse at any moment. This story was a favorite of Muir’s and he never forgot the bravery and loyalty of the dog that had befriended him. The author has done a fine job at weaving together Muir’s own words with narration to make an exciting true story that will capture the attention of young readers.
— California Kids! – The Book Report (January 2001)
This book is a true story about John Muir, an explorer and environmentalist, and a brave dog named Stickeen, both of whom explore the Taylor Glacier together in Alaska. Muir starts his journey by himself, but his friend’s dog, Stickeen, decides that he wants to go as well. At the beginning, both the dog and Muir are independent and don’t work well together as a team. On the glacier, though, Muir and Stickeen realize that they need each other to stay alive. This when the story gets really exciting!
I found this book to be very entertaining and enjoyable to read. Being a true story makes it even better. The artwork is visually stunning. It is original, intricate and detailed as well. The writing and illustrations blend perfectly together to tell the story. Any reader who likes nice illustrations, intriguing stories and memorable characters would enjoy this book.
— Alaska Wellness – Mitchell Burnem, age 13 (July/August 2007)
This book is about an explorer whose name is John Muir. I didn’t know who he was but I know that there is a school by us that has his nameon it. The book is called Stickeen because that is the dog’s name that goes with him.
In the beginning it says that it is a true story. This book happened way back in 1880. That was a long time ago. He was exploring on glaciers and he took the dog named Stickeen with him. It was very dangerous going on the glaciers because there were big crevasses in them that they could fall down. I didn’t know if they were going to make it across or not.
My favorite picture in Stickeen: John Muir and the Brave Little Dog is the one of the skinny ice bridge that they had to go across. That was the one Stickeen was scared of. I liked reading this book about their adventure together.
— Kids Reader Views – Cayden Aures (age 6.5) (April 2011)