Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
"We grow up seven times faster than they do, and that's what makes it difficult," says the street-wise Hyena to the scruffy and mostly unloved Dog in Pennac's (Eye of the Wolf) bitter pill of a tale. Dog's story unfolds through a lengthy flashback, in which his life on the streets grows even tougher when a freak accident kills his adopted mother. Dog roams the town looking for a new owner, and ends up being taken in by a family on vacation, consisting of a shrill mother and a bombastic father (Mrs. Squeak and Mr. Muscle, as Dog affectionately names them). Dog, however, falls in love with the daughter, whom he calls Plum (because of how she smells when he meets her). The girl breaks his heart by ignoring him once they return to her home in the city. Hyena turns out to be the book's font of wisdom ("The problem with life is that even when it seems the same, it's changing all the time," he later expounds), even if that wisdom is often cynical. The finale contains a bizarre revenge sequence, which is never fully reconciled with the story as a whole, and its inclusion seems mean-spirited. Ages 8-up. (Feb.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
This is a reprint of French author Pennac's first children's book, originally published in France in 1982. "Dog" is the name of a dog who leads an especially grim version of the proverbial "dog's life." Almost drowned at birth, he lives in the junkyard until he finally finds himself a young mistress, Plum, only to be mistreated by her cold and cruel parents, Mr. Muscle and Mrs. Squeak. Worse, Plum herself forgets her initial intense love for Dog, ignoring him for other pleasures. The text is often very funny: Dog, visiting a town for the first time, concludes, "So that's what a town is. . . It's just a dump that's bigger and more spread out and fresher smelling." When Plum disappears, in search of Dog who has run away, her parents suspect kidnapping, but the neighbors reassure them: "It might not be all that serious. Perhaps she was just run over by a bus!" The vicissitudes of a dog's life, seen from a dog's point of view, are accurately observed, and a child's natural fickleness finally forgiven. But the book is marred by a disturbing and melodramatic ending: Plum's parents scheme to abandon Dog on a family vacation; he wreaks revenge on them by an extraordinarily destructive vandalism of their home. All is forgiven on both sides when the sight of Dog cures Plum, near-death from a hunger strike. The concluding message of the story seems to be that success in life comes to those who are willing to do anything, however violent, vengeful, and self-destructive, to achieve their goals. 2004 (orig. 1982), Candlewick, Ages 8 to 12.
Dog has a rough life. He is so ugly that he was almost drowned at birth. He grew up in a dump, and his mentor and protector was killed while Dog was just a puppy. On his first trip into town, Dog gets caught and taken to the pound. Things start to look up when Plum and her parents adopt him, but it is still a dog's life for this hero. Plum's parents do not like Dog and conspire to abandon him. It takes the friendship of wily Hyena and some amazing cats to help Dog to train his family correctly. In this translation from the French, Pennac uses some clever turns of phrase and musical prose. Perhaps it has something to do with Adams's translation, but it is difficult to get a handle on Plum's age. She seems quite young but speaks with more self-assurance than one might expect. The sense of time is fluid, beginning with the present before flashing back to Dog's puppyhood and then ending with a peek at his future. Although probably most appealing to younger tweens with the fantastical elements of animals who talk, scheme, and create art, this novel does not shy away from realities such as abusive humans and life on the streets. VOYA Codes 3Q 3P M (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2004, Candlewick, 192p., Ages 11 to 14.
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 2-5-Dog, raised by Black Nose in a dump after surviving near drowning as a puppy, is soon adrift when Black Nose is killed by a falling refrigerator. He makes his way through the harsh realities of the dog pound, life on the street, travel on the Metro, and a stop with a kindly man and dog before landing with an erratic and manipulative child, Plum, and her indulgent parents. Plum initially cherishes her new companion but abandons him when her interests (and the plot) wander elsewhere. Dog runs away, but later rejoins the family, only to have Mr. Muscle and Mrs. Squeak, as he refers to Plum's parents, dispose of him. He rallies his companions to trash the apartment but save Plum's room, and ends up with her once again, but this time, supposedly, loved and cherished by the child and tolerated with some respect by Mr. Muscle. Italic passages conveying Dog's depressing thoughts and terrified dreams, plus rueful asides from the author, contribute to the overall weight of the story. While the narrative has some of the tone and misanthropy of Roald Dahl's Matilda (Viking, 1988), it more closely resembles Meindert DeJong's more kindly, better focused, and ultimately more satisfying Hurry Home, Candy (HarperCollins, 1953).-Susan Hepler, Burgundy Farm Country Day School, Alexandria, VA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
What seems at first like a simple, elegant dog's-eye-view uncurls into a dark-edged musing on hurt feelings, death, despair, and the problematic relationship between humans and dogs. As a newborn puppy, Dog survives a drowning and ends up in a dump, where he learns foraging, smell-tracking, and loyalty. After beloved Black Nose (a mother, though not necessarily his) is killed, he sets out for town, where he's imprisoned in the dog-catcher's death row before being adopted by a tiny girl named Plum, who reminds him of the sun. Plum's parents are harsh and cold, however, and even Plum may be less than she promised. Dog escapes, wanders, makes friends with an eclectic group of dogs and cats, and wonders how life should be lived. His reunion with Plum includes threat, heartbreak, and revenge before the much-needed happy ending. Occasionally surreal and slightly existential, this well-written piece has an unusual flavor. (Fiction. 8-12)
Read an Excerpt
"What's a pedigree?" asked Dog.
"It's an idea invented by humans," replied Sniffy scornfully, "and it's completely fake." . . .
"Are you a pedigree?" Dog asked Woolly.
Woolly managed a feeble smile. "I have every kind of pedigree in me. I'm related to any dog you care to mention. Even Sniffy here, who doesn't look a bit like me. Even you. . . ."
"Don't you have an owner?"
The smile vanished from Woolly's face. A long silence followed. A very long silence indeed. Finally Woolly said, "I used to have a mistress. . . ."
"I lost her."
The sun was high in the sky. It was stiflingly hot under the great metal roof of the dog pound. There were a lot of tongues hanging out.
"What d'you mean, lost her?"
"Just that. I went out for a walk one evening and when I came back the next morning, she was gone. The apartment was empty. She'd moved out." . . .
"But didn't you follow her smell?" asked Dog, amazed.
"What good would it have done? If she didn't want me anymore, what was the point?" . . .
After a while Woolly said in a thoughtful voice, "Anyway, it's my fault. I didn't train her properly—"
Their conversation was interrupted by something Dog would never forget. Something that's made him call out every night ever since. The main gate swung open onto the setting sun. A black van reversed through the gate into the dog pound. Ten men wearing leather gloves jumped out. They opened a whole row of cages, grabbed hold of the dogs, and hurled them into the van. The director of the dog pound watched the whole operation with a blank smile on his face. The dogs were kicking with all four legs and barking and biting. But it was over in a flash, and nothing they did made any difference. The van took off again. The gates closed behind it.
There was a deathly silence. A gust of Total Terror had just blown through. All the dogs were looking at the row of empty cages.