Leo, Dog of the Sea (Dog Chronicles)

Written by Alison Hart
Review by Xina Marie Uhl

Spunky little terrier Leo has been at sea for many voyages during Spain’s Age of Discovery in the early 16th century. Leo knows how to capture rats and steer clear of the rough sailors commanded by Portuguese explorer Magellan. But something about a young stowaway named Marco softens him, and he snatches Marco from a watery death during a storm.

Leo and Marco form a friendship joined by Magellan’s scribe Pigafetta. The three comrades stick together through the perilous voyage from Spain to the mysterious Spice Islands. The sailors face mutineers, hostile Indios, disease, storms, shipwreck, and hunger as their search drags on for months, helmed by the stubborn Magellan, who refuses to quit despite the deaths of his crew.

This middle-grade historical novel is told in first person from Leo the dog’s point of view, an unusual but delightful perspective. While at times the specifics of the journey are not exactly doggy material, the historical detail, seafaring vocabulary, and realistic descriptions make up for it.

Written with a deft hand, and illustrated with pencil drawings of key scenes, this book provides more than just an exciting adventure story. It also educates by including a map, drawings of tools, machines, and the ship, as well as explanations of terms and a brief encapsulation of the historical context. Young readers will find Leo’s story captivating and may be inspired to seek out other volumes in the Dog Chronicles series such as Darling, Mercy Dog of World War I and Finder, Coal Mine Dog.