Bel Ria: Dog of War

Overview

Sheila Burnford, the author of The Incredible Journey, offers the spellbinding tale of a small dog caught up in the Second World War, and of the extraordinary life-transforming attachments he forms with the people he encounters in the course of a perilous passage from occupied France to besieged England.

Nameless, Burnford’s hero first turns up as a performing dog, a poodle mix earning his keep as part of a gypsy caravan that is desperately fleeing the Nazi advance. Taken on ...

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Bel Ria: Dog of War

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Overview

Sheila Burnford, the author of The Incredible Journey, offers the spellbinding tale of a small dog caught up in the Second World War, and of the extraordinary life-transforming attachments he forms with the people he encounters in the course of a perilous passage from occupied France to besieged England.

Nameless, Burnford’s hero first turns up as a performing dog, a poodle mix earning his keep as part of a gypsy caravan that is desperately fleeing the Nazi advance. Taken on ship by the Royal Navy, he is given the name of Ria and serves as the scruffy mascot to a boatload of sailors. Marooned in England in the midst of the Blitz, Ria rescues an old woman from the rubble of her bombed house, and finds himself unexpectedly transformed into Bel, the coiffed and pampered companion of her old age.

Bel Ria is an exciting story about a compellingly real, completely believable dog. Readers of all sorts and ages will find in Bel Ria a companion to take to heart.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“If you love animals in general, dogs in particular, and good stories about them, you will rejoice in Sheila Burnford’s novel Bel Ria…The scenes of war, both on land and sea, are as beautifully done as the rest, with a considerable cast of appealing human characters also. There is a special poignancy to animals in wartime, particularly those not involved in military uses, that not only makes us vibrate to them but points up the human folly, tragedy, and gallantry…With unerring touch, Mrs. Burnford draws the threads of people and animals together in resolution, by instinct as sound as that which once guided Homer in such a matter. Bel Ria is a magical story; Mrs. Burnford has benevolent witchery.”–The Wall Street Journal

“The Bel Ria can’t help but become another classic…Sheila Burnford has written a beautiful, moving story, woven from many fine threads. I can’t recommend it highly enough for readers from 12 to 90.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer

“A magical, enchanting tale.”–Cosmo Magazine

“The reader will…long remember the little dog dancing to bells and flute, responding to cryptic signals from the cryptic old crone, straining mind and body to earn the cryptic reward of love.”–The Washington Post

“The author’s descriptions of war are consistently sharp and the texture of her prose is life-like in the extreme.”–The Christian Science Monitor

Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
Burnford is best known for her novel The Incredible Journey and its spin off Disney film (1963) about three pets that trek across Canada in search of their family. It is a pleasure to discover she had another story in the wings. No talking animals here. Nevertheless, Burnford has the uncanny ability of getting into her creatures very being. Her mutt, Bel/Riaa small, scrawny poodle mix takes an innate pride in his gypsy circus training. He does not do tricks. He performs. And he chooses who deserves his performances. It is this intelligent creature's natural nobility that saves a succession of masters from the horrors of Nazi atrocities in France, the retreat of Great Britain's army at Dunkirk, and North Atlantic convoy runs, until a separate peace is achieved in bombed out England. Bel/Ria's odyssey is moving beyond description, and becomes a fitting tribute to World War II's Allies. Bel Ria is another brilliant reprint choice from the editors of The New York Review Children's Collection. It can be used in English and Social Studies classes, and in war-related discussions in middle and upper schools. Reviewer: Kathleen Karr
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590172117
  • Publisher: New York Review Books
  • Publication date: 11/28/2006
  • Series: New York Review Children's Collection Series
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 941,552
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.76 (w) x 8.59 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

SHEILA BURNFORD (1918—1984), a Scottish-born Canadian author, wrote books of fiction and nonfiction for both children and adults. In World War II she was an ambulance driver. Her most famous work was the children's classic The Incredible Journey.

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