Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
Shiloh Book Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Sweet bond forms between boy and beagle in thrilling story.

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 16 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 28 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Shiloh offers readers a picture of rural life in the hills of West Virginia. The book also encourages conversations about honesty vs. morality, and the treatment and rights of animals.

Positive Messages

Marty thinks, "There's got to be times that what one person does is everybody's business." His father says, "There's food for the body and food for the spirit. And Shiloh sure enough feeds our spirit."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Marty's not without his flaws; he lies about hiding Shiloh and about why he needs to squirrel away food. But he is a gentle, purehearted, and brave boy. He does his best to protect Shiloh and care for him, and his instinct is always to do what's kind and right. 


A German shepherd attacks Shiloh. Judd kicks his dogs. Hunting -- including shooting animals in the head, and blood on the ground -- is described in detail.


Judd calls Shiloh a "damned animal." Marty tells his friend, "If you ever tell anyone, even your ma and dad, may Jesus make you blind.” Marty says he can tell Shiloh has been mistreated because the dog is "scared to pee."


Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Judd Travers drinks beer and chews tobacco.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's Shiloh, the story of a boy's love for an abused beagle, is thrilling and moving, and it will make kids think. The main character, Marty, faces a series of moral dilemmas, as everything in him wants to protect Shiloh from mean Judd Travers, but he feels remorseful as he piles lie upon lie to keep Shiloh safe. Judd is a scary villain who mistreats his animals, so some sensitive children may have a hard time reading about his violence and cruelty. There are also detailed descriptions of hunting for rabbits and deer, and of a German Shepherd attack on Shiloh. Shiloh also contains a couple of instances of rude language, including Judd calling Shiloh a "damned animal."  

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMrs.Teacher February 26, 2020

Great book.

I have read this book many different years with groups of fourth graders. I wanted to write a review after reading the others submitted so far. Judd is shown... Continue reading
Adult Written byJ T. March 9, 2018


The review from Common Sense Media doesn't mention that there is cussing in this children's book. Not okay.
Teen, 13 years old Written bysqwert90 October 7, 2014

worst book i've ever read!

this book was the worst book i've ever read. my whole class had to read it for an assignment. almost everone in the class complained about grammar. it obvi... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old April 14, 2021

really good!

I remember when we read this book in 3rd grade! me and my classmates really loved this book. I think it really helps people learn that hurting animals/pets is... Continue reading

What's the story?

SHILOH tells the story of tenderhearted Marty and his devotion to an abused dog. One day, Marty comes upon a lost beagle, which follows the boy at a distance. Marty quickly notices that the dog is fearful and very thin. Marty's dad helps his son return the dog to its owner, Judd Travers, whom Marty knows to be dishonest and mean. Marty observes that Judd kicks his dogs, and the boy becomes increasingly desperate to protect Shiloh from abuse. Meanwhile, the dog runs away from Judd whenever he gets the chance, and he keeps trying to get back to Marty. The boy eventually decides to conceal the dog in the woods near his family's home, and he makes up implausible excuses to squirrel away half of his own food for Shiloh. As Marty's lies (and his hunger) grow, more and more people find out his secret, and before long Shiloh is in even more danger than he was before. 

Is it any good?

This timeless, heartwarming novel is also a thought-provoking page-turner. Does Shiloh have a right to be treated kindly? Is it OK for Marty to lie to protect Shiloh? What will happen to him and to Shiloh if his lies are revealed? Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's story will move animal lovers from middle grades to middle school, and it's a great point of departure for families and classrooms to discuss the moral dilemmas that Marty faces. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Marty's dishonesty in Shiloh. Is Marty wrong to lie to his family in order to protect the dog? 

  • Judd Travers owns Shiloh. Does this give Judd the right to do whatever he wants to his dog? 

  • Have you seen any movies based on Shiloh? One was made a few years after the book was published (1999), and another in 2006. Which did you like better, the book or a movie? How are the movies different from the book?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love animal friends

Themes & Topics

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