Pennac, Daniel. 2004. DOG. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press. ISBN 0763624217 [Suggested Grade Levels 3-6]
DOG is a really warm and tender dog’s point of view book about a canine named Dog and how he tames a human girl child. He eventually learns to trust life with those hard to understand humans. Dog’s early canine history is full of much mistreatment. He manages to have two dog friends named Black Nose and Woolly who influence him as a puppy and who give him the courage to keep looking for a place where he can thrive as a pet. Short chapters make the journey of Dog as homeless abandoned pup to lap dog a story that makes you want to finish this book. Dog’s mistress, Plum, is also in need of learning a few life lessons along the way. In her own opposite fashion she has been coddled, pampered and indulged and alternately ignored by two hapless parents. How the girl child and the canine help each other learn about treating other creatures makes this book both funny and touching.
The only section that does not quite ring true is when Dog travels with Hyena to a place called the Dog Cemetery. He encounters a “secret” kingdom where dearly departed pets are memorialized. Since Dog throughout this book encounters one grueling experience after the other with the fickle state of humanity, the cemetery is supposed to be a counterweight but to what effect is unclear. The chapters devoted to the cemetery seem clumped together. What works better is how Plum’s love for him forces her to be something not so erratic, so headstrong and so self-possessed. After Dog escapes from her fickle clutches, the scene where she pleads for a second chance is both melodramatic and very moving to the reader.
Discuss with readers if they think dogs dream. Compare and contrast several books with dog heroes. How do they stack up in behavior with their human owners? Have children who have pets of any kind bring in photographs of their animals and discuss why they do or do not agree that their pet is like a member of the family.
Some books that have a dog as hero:
Gardiner, John Reynolds. STONE FOX. ISBN 0064401324
Morgan, Clay. THE BOY WHO SPOKE DOG. ISBN 0525471596
Wallace, Bill. GOOSED! ISBN 068986681X
By Andrea L. Williams