The Book Reviews – Website

November 14, 2009

The Great Serum Race

The Great Serum Race

Author: Debbie Miller

Page Length: 32

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Non-fiction, trade book

PLOT SUMMARY: In 1925, the town of Nome, Alaska experiences an outbreak of diphtheria that threatens the lives of all it’s citizens. The only hope for recovery is a batch of antitoxin serum in which this isolated community is without. The town’s doctor sends a distress message for an order of the serum. However, delivery of the medicine proves a problem during the winter. A helicopter transport is impossible. They decide to carry the serum by train, however it is only able to be delivered as close as 700 miles away from Nome. To transport the serum the remaining 700 miles to Nome, an elaborate relay team of 20 mushers and 160 dogs is formed. Battling temperatures of over 60 degrees below zero, 2-3 hours of daily sunshine, 4 dog deaths, and miles of frozen seas, the relay teams successfully deliver the serum to the town of Nome in less than 6 days.

REVIEW: This short picture book captures the true events of several teams of sled dogs and mushers in their pursuit to save a town from a deadly disease. While over 160 dogs participated in this venture, Balto received the most recognition by the media due to his participation in the last leg of the relay as well as his “preferred name”. Many of the dogs were recognized on tours, zoo appearances, and movie spotlights.

The famous Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race commemorates the 1925 serum run. This famous race follows much of the same route as the 1925 run. Leonhard Seppala, owner of both Balto and Togo (both dogs participated in the serum run) is recognized as an honorary musher for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

This book would be an excellent supplement to a study of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Students interested in dogs may find this book appealing.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: social studies trade book, sequence of events, case and effect

RELATED BOOKS: Storm Run by Libby Riddles, Balto: Sled Dog of Alaska by LaVere Anderson, Racing Sled Dogs: An Original North American Sport by Michael Cooper, The Call of the Wild by Jack London, White Fang by Jack London (list of books)

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: “Iditarod: A Far Distant Place” (2000)


REVIEWED BY: Kevin Stratton



  1. it’s a very nice storry but what is the job of the dogs, & is there a race???

    Comment by Farouk $ — September 19, 2011 @ 8:40 am | Reply

  2. I feel bad for the dogs

    Comment by Anonymous — November 12, 2015 @ 12:21 am | Reply

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