When Marty Preston comes across a young beagle in the hills behind his home, it's love at first sight—and also big trouble. It turns out the dog, which Marty names Shiloh, belongs to Judd Travers, who drinks too much and has a gun—and abuses his dogs. So when Shiloh runs away from Judd to Marty, Marty just has to hide him and protect him from Judd. But Marty's secret becomes too big for him to keep to himself, and it exposes his entire family to Judd's anger. How far will Marty have to go to make Shiloh his?
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My favorite place to walk is just across this rattly bridge where the road curves by the old Shiloh schoolhouse and follows the river. River to one side, trees the other-sometimes a house or two.
And this particular afternoon, I'm about half-way up the road along the river when I see something out of the corner of my eye. Something moves. I look, and about fifteen yards off, there's this shorthaired dog white with brown and black spots not making any kind of noise, just slinking along with his head down, watching me, tall between his legs like he's hardly got the right to breathe. A beagle, maybe a year or two old.
I stop and the dog stops. Looks like he's been caught doing something awful, when I can tell all he really wants is to follow along beside me.
"Here, boy," I say, slapping my thigh.
Dog goes down on his stomach, groveling about in the grass. I laugh and start over toward him. He's got an old worn-out collar on, probably older than he is. Bet it belonged to another dog before him. "C'mon, boy," I say, putting out my hand.
The dog gets up and backs off. He don't even whimper, like he's lost his bark.
Something really hurts inside you when you see a dog cringe like that. You know somebody's been kicking at him. Beating on him, maybe.
"It's okay, boy," I say, coming a little closer, but still he backs off.
So I just take my gun and follow the river. Every so often I look over my shoulder and there he is, the beagle. I stop; he stops. I can see his ribs not real bad but he isn't plumped out or anything.
There's a broken branch hanging from a limb out over the water, and I'm wondering if I can bring it down with one shot. I raise my gun, and then I think how the sound might scare the dog off. I decide I don't want to shoot my gun much that day.
It's a slow river. You walk beside it, you figure it's not even moving. lf you stop, though, you can see leaves and things going along. Now and then a fish jumps big fish. Bass, I think. Dog's still trailing me, tail tucked in. Funny how he don't make a sound.
Finally I sit on a log, put my gun at my feet, and wait. Back down yhe road, the dog sits, too. Sits right in the middle of it, head on his paws.
"Here, boy!" I say again, an pat my knee.
He wiggles just a little, but he don't come.
Maybe it's a she-dog.
"Here, girl!" I say. Dog still don't come.
I decide to wait the dog out, but after three or four minutes on the log, it gets boring and I start off again. So does the beagle.
Don't know where you'd end up if you followed the river all the way. Heard somebody say it curves about, comes back on itself, but if it didn't and I got home after dark, I'd get a good whopping. So I always go as far as the ford, where the river spills across the path, and then I head back.
When I turn around and the dog sees me coming, he goes off into the woods. I figure that's the last I'll see of the beagle, and I get halfway down the road again before I look back. There he is. I stop. He stops. I go. He goes.
And then, hardly thinking on it, I whistle.
It's like pressing a magic button. The beagle comes barreling toward me, legs going lickety-split, long ears flopping, tall sticking up like a flagpole. This time, when I put out my hand, he Iicks all my fingers and jumps up against my leg, making little yelps in his throat. He can't get enough of me, like I'd been saying no all along and now I'd said yes, he could come. It's a he-dog, like I'd thought.
"Hey, boy! You're really somethin' now, ain't you?" I'm laughing as the beagle makes circles around me. I squat down and the dog licks my face, my neck. Where'd he learn to come if you whistled, to hang back if you didn't?
I'm so busy watching the dog I don't even notice it's started to rain. Don't bother me. Don't bother the dog, neither. I'm looking for the place I first saw him. Does he live here? I wonder. Or the house on up the road? Each place we pass I figure he'll stop somebody come out and whistle, maybe. But nobody comes out and the dog don't stop. Keeps coming even after we get to the old Shiloh schoolhouse. Even starts across the bridge, tall going like a propeller. He licks my hand every so often to make sure I'm still there mouth open like he's smiling. He is smiling.
Once he follows me across the bridge, through, and on past the gristmill, I start to worry. Looks like he's fixing to follow me all the way to our house. I'm in trouble enough coming home with my clothes wet. My ma's mama died of pneumonia, and we don't ever get the chance to forget it. And now I got a dog with me, and we were never allowed to have pets.
If you can't afford to feed 'em and take 'em to the vet when they're sick, you've no right taking 'em in, Ma says, which is true enough.
I don't say a word to the beagle the rest of' the way home, hoping he'll turn at some point and go back. The dog keeps coming.
I get to the front stoop and say, "Go home, boy." And then I feel my heart squeeze up the way he stops smiling, sticks his tail between his legs again, and slinks off. He goes as far as the sycamore tree, lies down in the wet grass, head on his paws.
"Whose dog is that?" Ma asks when I come in.
I shrug. "Just followed me, is all."
"Where'd it pick up with you?" Dad asks.
"Up in Shiloh, across the bridge," I say.
"On the road by the river? Bet that's Judd Travers's beagle," says Dad. "He got himself another hunting dog a few weeks back."
"Judd got him a hunting dog, how come he don't treat him right?" I ask.
"How you know he don't?"
"Way the dog acts. Scared to pee, almost," I say.
Ma gives me a look.
"Don't seem to me he's got any marks on him," Dad says, studying him from our window.
Don't have to mark a dog to hurt him, I'm thinking.
"Just don't pay him any attention and he'll go away," Dad says.
"And get out of those wet clothes," Ma tells me. "You want to follow your grandma Slater to the grave?"
I change clothes, then sit down and turn on the TV, which only has two channels. On Sunday afternoons, it's preaching and baseball. I watch baseball for an hour. Then I get up and sneak to the window. Ma knows what I'm about.
"That Shiloh dog still out there?" she asks.
I nod. He's looking at me. He sees me there at the window and his tall starts to thump. I name him Shiloh.
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* “A moving and powerful look at the best and worst of human nature.”—Booklist, starred review
Reading Group Guide
A Reading Group Guide to The Shiloh Trilogy By Phyllis Reynolds Naylor About the Trilogy The Shiloh Trilogy by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor launched by the Newbery Award–winning novel Shiloh, takes readers straight into the heart and soul of an eleven-year-old West Virginia boy named Marty Preston. His family of five has barely enough food and room for themselves, never mind a pet. But when Marty finds an abused beagle out in the woods, he’s willing to go to almost any length to hold on to him. The story of how Marty keeps Shiloh and at the same time tries to balance his responsibilities to his family, to the dog’s troubled original owner, and, perhaps trickiest of all, to himself, unfolds in an unforgettable trilogy. Each book is richly rewarding on its own. Together they form one of the most deeply felt sagas in modern children’s literature. Discussion Topics 1. Marty loves animals. What details does the author provide, right from the opening paragraphs of Shiloh, that make this clear to readers? What does Marty teach Judd about loving animals in Shiloh Season and Saving Shiloh? 2. “A lie don’t seem a lie anymore when it’s meant to save a dog,” Marty says in Shiloh, ”and right and wrong’s all mixed up in my head.” Discuss how Marty continues to wrestle with right and wrong in Shiloh Season and Saving Shiloh. 3. Marty feels that his choices, in Shiloh, come down to either hiding the dog and keeping it secret, or giving it back to Judd. Debate whether there are other possibilities that Marty hasn’t considered. 4. Explain Marty’s comment in Saving Shiloh, “Trying to be polite and honest at the same time is hard work.” Rate Marty on his ability to be both polite and honest. 5. Marty’s dream of becoming a vet “sort of leaks out like water in a paper bag” when his father, early in Shiloh, tells him how expensive veterinary training is. How does Marty restore his dream as the trilogy progresses? Discuss the possibilities of Marty achieving his goal. 6. “Thought once if I could just get Shiloh for my own, it would be the finest day of my life,” Marty says, after he and Shiloh’s original owner, Judd Travers, reach their agreement in Shiloh. “In a way it is, in a way it isn’t.” Why is Marty so torn? 7. The second book in the trilogy is called Shiloh Season. What does Marty mean by “Shiloh season”? How are Marty’s fears justified? 8. Marty and David Howard are allowed to roam the countryside near Marty’s house, but in Saving Shiloh, Marty’s mother won’t let Marty and his sisters go trick-or-treating. She says, “Houses too far apart for you kids to be walk- ing out on the road.” Explain her fears. Why are her fears more justified in Saving Shiloh? 9. In Shiloh Season, Marty realizes that “when you love, you got to take chances.” What are some of the chances he takes for Shiloh? Judd takes a chance for Shiloh in Saving Shiloh. What does Judd’s gesture indicate to Marty and the surrounding community? 10. Over the three novels, the author reveals more and more details about Judd Travers’s childhood. How do Marty’s feelings about Judd change as he learns more about Judd’s early years? Discuss whether your feelings toward Judd change. 11. In Saving Shiloh, Ed Sholt says, “We ought to keep Judd on the hot seat, let him know his kind wasn’t wanted around here, and maybe he’d move some- where else.” How does Judd become a hero in his neck of the woods by the end of the novel? 12. “There’s food for the body and food for the spirit,” Marty’s father says. “And Shiloh sure feeds our spirit.” Explain how Shiloh continues to feed the spirit of the Preston family in Shiloh Season and Saving Shiloh. What is the food that eventually feeds Judd’s spirit in Saving Shiloh? 13. Discuss Marty’s relationship with Dara Lynn and Becky. What is the first evidence in Saving Shiloh that Marty and Dara Lynn’s relationship is improving? How does the “near disaster” at the creek in Saving Shiloh change Marty, David, Judd, and the entire Preston family? 14. Marty’s best friend is David Howard, the only child of two professional parents. Compare and contrast David’s home with Marty’s. What are some of the material advantages that the Howards enjoy? How comfortable is David at Marty’s home? What draws the boys to each other? 15. Explain what Marty means in Saving Shiloh when he says, “Because I got Shiloh, I’m smack in the middle of Judd’s problems.” 16. Why is Judd suspicious of Marty when Marty tries to help him? 17. Cite evidence from the Shiloh novels that religion is important to the Preston family. How does Marty call upon his religious training when he is sorting out the lies that he tells? 18. What does Mr. Preston teach his children about giving someone a second chance? Discuss how many chances the Preston family gives Judd in the Shiloh trilogy. What is the Preston family’s role in helping Judd on a journey of self-discovery? What does Judd learn about giving and receiving in the three Shiloh novels? 19. An epiphany is a term that refers to a point of awakening for one or more characters in a novel. What is Judd Travers’ epiphany in Saving Shiloh? How do Marty and David Howard realize that Judd has changed? Activities and Research 1. The Shiloh trilogy is set in and around real places in West Virginia. Find a map of Tyler County, West Virginia, on the Internet. Identify the towns mentioned in the novels. 2. In Appalachia where the Shiloh books are set, there is a relationship between the land and the people. Discuss how the land shapes the people. How do the people shape the land? Write a brochure for the Tyler County Welcome Center that explains this to outsiders who want to better understand the area and its people. Include a map of Tyler County on the brochure. 3. In Shiloh, Marty’s teacher, and David Howard’s mother, encourages Marty to work on his grammar. Select a paragraph from Shiloh and write it in Standard English. How does changing the language affect the tone of the novel, and the sense of place? 4. Judd Travers violates hunting laws. Why are his actions so dangerous to the community at large? Learn about the hunting laws in your area. Find out if there have been violations of or significant controversies about them. 5. “You’ve got to go by the law,” Marty’s father says. “You don’t agree by the law, then you work to change it.” Research the ways that citizens in your community have worked to change a law with which they disagreed. 6. Marty’s class is assigned to write about how they imagine their future. Prepare this assignment for Marty. How does he imagine his future? How much education will he need? Where will he live? 7. Invite a representative from your local SPCA to talk about animal abuse. What are the warning signs of abuse? How should you report it? 8. “Truth,” Marty decides in Shiloh Season, “is more important, but gossip is more interesting.” Discuss how David Howard’s case against Judd Travers in Saving Shiloh is based on gossip and a wild imagination. The community also suspects Judd of the murder. Write a letter to the editor of the newspaper accusing Judd of the crime. 9. In Saving Shiloh, the Prestons invite Judd Travers to Thanksgiving lunch. Role-play a family conversation that takes place at the end of the day. What, for example, would Marty, Dara Lynn, and Becky say to their parents about their guest? How might Mr. and Mrs. Preston respond to their children? 10. David Howard’s dad works for the Tyler Star-News. Find out the role of a good journalist. Then write the story about Judd saving Shiloh for Mr. Howard’s newspaper. Provide quotes from Judd, Marty, and David Howard. Give the article an appropriate title. 11. Marty’s father had faith in Judd Travers, even when other people didn’t. Write an essay about the changes that occur within Judd Travers from the beginning of Shiloh to the end of Saving Shiloh. Read—Watch—Write: Exploring the Film Versions 1. A book has been written; a movie has been made. The next step is for reviewers to make thoughtful comparisons of the movie to the book. Put yourself in the role of a reviewer. First read one of the Shiloh books, then watch the DVD, and finally, write a review. Carefully think through the challenges of putting a book on the screen, considering both the advantages and disadvantages of each medium. Remember that a review should include a concise summary, your opinion of the work, clear evidence to support your opinion, and a short conclusion. 2. Anytime a novel is made into a film, there is a question as to which is better. Why is it important to read a novel before seeing the film adaptation? Discuss the difference in a film narrative and a novel narrative. 3. Read Shiloh, Shiloh Season, and Saving Shiloh before you watch the films. How do you mentally picture the main characters? After watching the films, write a brief paper that compares your mental image of one of the main characters (e.g. Marty, David Howard, Judd Travers, etc.) to the way they are portrayed on the screen. 4. Consider the dialect that is indicative of the Appalachia people. The reader knows that Marty is working to improve his grammar. How are dialect and grammar different? Note any inconsistencies in language in the book and the movie. Who is the most authentic character in the movie? 5. Appalachia is a unique region of the United States. Write down what you learned about the geography and the culture of this region from Naylor’s Shiloh novels. While viewing the film, jot down the way this region is conveyed. Are the films true to the people and how they live? 6. Marty experiences various emotions throughout the Shiloh novels. For example, he feels anger, fear, happiness, and sadness. Find a scene in one or all of the novels where Marty shows these emotions. How does he display the same emotions in the film versions of the novels? Is it in dialogue? Body language? Try your hand at acting. Pick an emotional scene in one of the novels and prepare it as a monologue. 7. The films are largely faithful to the novels’ plots, but there were some changes made. What were some of the most significant ones? Why do you think the changes were made? If you could change one thing about the movie Saving Shiloh, what would it be? 8. Be a casting director. Choosing from children and adults in your school or neighborhood, who would you pick for the major roles in the films? How about the dog? What kind of training would the dog need to play the role? 9. Filmmakers use dialogue to tell a story, but they also have other tools at their disposal. Pay special attention to scenes that feature little or no dialogue. Discuss how the filmmakers use music or visual images to set a tone or mood, or to advance the plot. For example, the suspense of the scene where Marty and David are exploring the old farmhouse or the final scene when Judd jumps in the water to save Shiloh. 10. Typically, stunt men and women are used in film when a specific scene places the actor in a dangerous position. Make note of scenes where you think stunt artists were used. Explain your thoughts. 11. Phyllis Reynolds Naylor wrote the Shiloh trilogy alone, but each of the films credits a long list of people, in addition to the actors, who worked on the project. Find out more about these various behind-the-camera jobs. What, for example, are the responsibilities of a director, a producer, or a cinematographer? 12. Analysis, opinion, and evaluation are three common types of nonfiction writing. Brainstorm the differences in these types of writing. After viewing one of the Shiloh films, write an analysis, opinion, or evaluation of the film.