A Dog Like Jack

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This realistic picture book about loving and losing a first pet will likely join the ranks of Judith Viorst's The Tenth Good Thing About Barney with its unsentimental, honest approach. "Jack was eight years old when our family adopted him from the animal shelter. That's fifty-six in dog years," begins narrator Mike, pictured in a stroller. As the boy grows older, he and Jack develop rituals--trick-or-treating with themed Halloween costumes (boy as shepherd, dog as sheep), Saturday games of hide-and-seek in the park and the simple joy of a shared ice cream cone ("I'd save the last licks for him," says Mike). They even celebrate the same birthday. Inevitably, when Mike turns eight, Jack turns 91 and can no longer partake of their annual traditions, yet the spreads continue to depict an unbreakable bond between the pair. Jack dies in the final pages, and a swirling portrait depicts mother, father and son in a sorrowful embrace that emits both sadness and comfort. In succeeding pages even nature mourns: leafless trees with outspread limbs curve over mother and son on a walk through the park ("Do people live longer than dogs?" asks the boy). The narration never strikes a false note; even on the last spread, when Mike spies a dog in the park, he harbors mixed emotions. DiSalvo-Ryan (Now We Can Have a Wedding!) captures the essence of the ineffable connection between a child and his pet in her artwork while remaining completely within the child's sensibility in her text. Ages 3-8. (Mar.)
Children's Literature - Lois Ruben Gross
When a child loses a beloved pet, no words can take away the hurt, but this book may help to soothe the pain in the same way that Judith Viorst's The Tenth Good Thing About Barney helped an earlier generation of children. Mike and Jack are best friends. Mike is a boy and Jack is an eight year old golden retriever (fifty-six in dog years) acquired from an animal shelter for Mike's birthday. Mike and Jack are inseparable companions. They share walks, games, trick or treating (with Jack dressed in costume) and, best of all, summers at the seashore. As Jack gets older, the nature of the friends' play changes; Mike plays more independently and Jack, the good ol' dog, observes. Finally, Jack can no longer even walk and the family vet counsels loving the pet until the end. When Jack dies, Mike and his family bury him with ceremony and love and learn to deal with their loss before considering a replacement. Jack was, after all, unique. Disalvo-Ryan has written a sensitive book full of the joy of pet ownership which also answers the inevitable question, "Why did my dog have to die?" This book also addresses the changing nature of relationships as a pet (or a person) grows older. In that way, it brings to mind Wittman's A Special Trade. The afterword by veterinary Social Worker Kathleen Dunn is valuable; a practical guideline for helping a child deal with the progression of emotions that are the grief process. Since Jack dies naturally, the issue of animal euthanasia is not addressed, and that might have been an important addition not just for the child who loses a pet, but for the parent who accompanies the beloved friend on their last journey. This is a small omission in an excellent book about the love between a boy and his dog that subtly advocates for the adoption of older animals while it empathetically helps a child to close the circle of life.
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 3-This bibliotherapeutic picture book is a solid entry in the field of titles that deal with the death of a pet. Mike's family adopts Jack from a shelter when he is already eight-years-old ("That's fifty-six in dog years"). As the boy grows older, Jack is always an important part of his life-meeting him after school, accompanying him trick-or-treating, or romping with him in the park. In double-paged watercolor spreads, DiSalvo-Ryan shows the fun of an active dog as well as the gradual decline of the aged animal. When Jack dies, the boy and his parents hug one another and cry together. The usual questions are asked and answered. Mike conveys his lingering sorrow as he sees other healthy dogs after Jack's burial but expresses the conviction that his family will someday adopt another pet even though "there will never be another dog like Jack." In addition to DiSalvo-Ryan's skill at showing a family's life over time, a strength of this book is the epilogue, "Losing a Pet," which offers suggestions for coping with this situation.-Sue Sherif, Fairbanks North Star Borough Public Library, AK
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780823413690
  • Publisher: Holiday House, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/28/1999
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 3 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.34 (w) x 10.39 (h) x 0.34 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2009

    Great book for dealing with loss of dog

    We purchased A Dog Like Jack to help explain the death of our family dog to our children. We looked through many books on death and loss of a pet before deciding on this one. The story reminded us so much of our own situation and it helped the whole family deal with this emotional time. Our 4-year old son has asked us to re-read it several times. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is dealing with the loss of a beloved pet.

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