I’ve read all four of the Shiloh books. Is there a real place called Shiloh, West Virginia?
Yes, there is. It’s a small community, and the last time I visited, there was just a simple little road sign to tell a traveler that he was entering Shiloh. If you were to stop at the small post office in the town of Friendly, West Virginia, the postmaster could tell you how to get up there. The old Shiloh school house is gone, but you would see Middle Island Creek, and the bridge that Shiloh didn’t want to cross again.
We really loved the book Shiloh. We are a 4th grade classroom at the small school called Sacred Catholic School. We live in Lincoln, Nebraska. Our school is a classical education school which means we only read REALLY awesome great books like your book.
Our favorite part of Shiloh was when Marty saved Shiloh and Judd Travers was even a little nice to Marty at the end.
We had a lot of great conversations about this book. We wanted to know if you agreed that Marty should’ve kept Shiloh a secret from his parents. We talked a lot about which was right… to lie to your parents and save Shiloh or tell the truth and know Shiloh could get hurt. What would you have done?
Last thing… have you ever been to Nebraska? If you ever come here, please visit us! We’d love to have you!
Miss Scolaro’s 4th grade class
Thank you for your wonderful letter. The questions you were asking yourselves about what Marty should do were the same conversations I was having in my head when I wrote the book. Fortunately, I didn’t have to make a decision in real life because friends of ours in West Virginia finally adopted the dog. And just as Marty says to his dad, when his father tells him he wants him to do what’s right, “What’s RIGHT?” There are situations in life where it’s hard to tell the difference between right and wrong. Yes, I have been to your great state. In fact, I was there in 1996 to accept the Nebraska Golden Sower Award for Shiloh, and again in 1999 to accept the Golden Sower Award for Shiloh Season, the second book in the series. I hope your class will also enjoy Saving Shiloh and the final book, A Shiloh Christmas.
I just want to start out by saying your book, Shiloh is amazing! I just read it for about the 10th time and every time I never come out from reading Shiloh dry-eyed. This book absolutely touched my heart. I think Judd is cruel to have beaten his dogs. This book really opened my eyes. When I grow up I want to be a dog charity owner, and save every dog I possibly could! I think it’s amazing how your brain came up with all of these different ideas! If you possibly could I would love a copy of your book Shiloh signed.
Wouldn’t it be great if authors could just write books and give them out free? But just as plumbers aren’t expected to give free service and restaurants wouldn’t stay in business if they gave out free meals, authors make their living by writing and seeing their books sold in bookstores. But I am always glad to sign books that are sent to me or that people bring to author signings. I’m just so happy that you like my book, and hope you do become a dog charity owner.
What a pleasure to read ALL your Shiloh series for the last 12 years as a third grade public school teacher in San Diego County. Every year there are laughs, tears, and suspense during our read-aloud time.
My class is wondering if Judd Travers is based upon a real character. The query opened with a young fellow (Erick) asking if I thought (the real)Judd would be mad if he read the books, and found himself portrayed as the grumpy old man he seems to be in the books.
The class would be tickled if you were to reply. Perhaps we would have more questions to ask you.
As a dog owner my whole life, your stories have touched me deeply, and provided fertile ground for lessons on animal love and abuse.
I’ve never met anyone exactly like Judd–he’s all from my imagination–but I said this once in a classroom of second-grade kids–that I hoped there wasn’t anyone like Judd–and two boys immediately called out, “Yeah, my dad,” and they were serious. Also, I revisited the area of the country where I had originally found the stray dog who was the inspiration for Shiloh in my books, and some of the students there thought they “knew” who Judd was. The book, I guess, is that real to them, and if there is such a man, I hope he’s changed for the better.
When you write a book, you have to enter the story so thoroughly that the characters just “come” to you on their own, and they seem to instinctively tell you what they would do next. When Judd told Marty, after all that work, that their “contract” wasn’t valid because it didn’t have a witness, I hated that man with a passion. If I didn’t feel it, the reader never would. At the end of the first book, I knew that I wouldn’t trust him, even though he had turned over that dog collar to Marty. So there had to be a second book to show that Judd was really changing. But I still wasn’t satisfied that some time he might come across Shiloh in the woods, be angry that he let Marty have him, and would shoot the dog. What, I asked myself, would Judd have to finally do to ever convince Marty that he wouldn’t hurt Shiloh, or try to get him back? And so I wrote the last two books.
Comment: How did you come up with the plot for Shiloh?
My reply: Most of my books begin with a certain situation in mind, and then a question. When I actually came across this abused dog in West Virginia, I thought, “I’m sure this dog was abused. What if we found the owner, and offered to buy the dog, but he refused. How could we persuade him to change his mind?” After that, things sort of fell into place. The more I imagined the character of Judd Travers, and then the family situation, of not having much money, scenes kept coming to mind and wrote them.
Comment: Why did you name the dog Shiloh?
Phyllis replied: Shiloh was the name of the real community in West Virginia where I first came across the little dog that inspired the Shiloh series. I figured that if I were Marty, I’d name my dog after the place I had found it.
Comment: When you wrote the Shiloh books, did you ever know anyone like Judd Travers?
Phyllis replied: I didn’t know anyone like that personally, but I’d heard and read of such folks. Some people just don’t know how to care for a dog; they don’t know that chaining up a dog makes it mean, because the dog can’t defend itself if it’s attacked. Others just don’t seem to care whether an animal is happy or not, usually because the owner isn’t very happy.
Comment: Our class watched the movies of the first three Shiloh books. We think that the boy who played Marty in the first movie was the best one of the three. Why didn’t they use him for all the movies?
Phyllis replied: They would have, if they could have kept him from growing. Because there were several years between each of the Shiloh movies, the child actors had grown older and taller by the time the next movie was made. It wouldn’t have affected the adult actors much at all, and for the most part, the producers kept the same adult actors for all of the first three films. But you would have seen a considerable difference among the kids.