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Starlight Barking

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Overview

Dodie Smith's The Hundred and One Dalmatians, later adapted by Disney, was declared a classic when first published in 1956. The Starlight Barking, Dodie's own long-forgotten sequel, is a thrilling new adventure for Pongo and his family, lavishly illustrated by the same artist team as the first book. As the story opens, every living creature except dogs is gripped by an enchanted sleep. One of the original Dalmatian puppies, all grown up since the first novel, is now the Prime Minister's mascot. Relying on her ...

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Overview

Dodie Smith's The Hundred and One Dalmatians, later adapted by Disney, was declared a classic when first published in 1956. The Starlight Barking, Dodie's own long-forgotten sequel, is a thrilling new adventure for Pongo and his family, lavishly illustrated by the same artist team as the first book. As the story opens, every living creature except dogs is gripped by an enchanted sleep. One of the original Dalmatian puppies, all grown up since the first novel, is now the Prime Minister's mascot. Relying on her spotted parents for guidance, she assumes emergency leadership for the canine population of England. Awaiting advice from Sirius, the Dog Star, dogs of every breed crowd Trafalgar Square to watch the evening skies. The message they receive is a disturbing proposition, one that might forever destroy their status as "man's best friend."

When they awake to find that every living creature in England, except the dogs, is asleep, Dalmatians Pongo and Missis discover unusual abilities that lead them to London where their daughter is assembling all breeds of dogs to await contact from Sirius, the Dog Star.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312156640
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/1997
  • Series: Wyatt Book Series
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 452,077
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.37 (d)

Meet the Author

Born in Lancashire in 1896, Dorothy Gladys "Dodie" Smith was the most successful female dramtist of her generation; and her first novel, I Capture the Castle (Atlantic-Little, Brown, 1948). Dodie Smith died in 1990.

Biography

Before Dodie Smith died in 1990, she asked the novelist Julian Barnes to be her literary executor. As Barnes later told The Guardian, "She said she didn't think I'd have much to do as her literary executor -- in the last years of her life she was only earning around £12,000 from her books -- but since her death her career has revived in a spectacular way."

Indeed it has. Smith was once best known in the United States for her children's book The Hundred and One Dalmatians, which inspired an animated film from Disney -- and, later, the live-action movie starring Glenn Close. Her other major work, the 1948 novel I Capture the Castle, was out of print here for many years (though it has always had a following in Britain). But with the book's 1998 reissue, and the 2003 release of a film version from BBC Films, modern readers are rediscovering Dodie Smith.

As a young woman, Smith's first ambition was to be an actress, and she enrolled at the Academy of Dramatic Art (later the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) with hopes of going on the stage. But at five feet tall, she was "too short and not attractive enough," in her own words, so she gave up acting and took a job at Heal's in London, where she became the store's toy buyer. She still loved the theater, however, and in 1929 she wrote and sold a very successful play, Autumn Crocus. Smith followed it with several more hit plays, including Dear Octopus, which starred John Gielgud.

During World War II, Smith and her pacifist husband, Alec Beesley, moved to America to avoid the British draft. She wrote screenplays for Paramount and formed "great friendships" with other writers, including Christopher Isherwood. Although Smith missed her home, she and Beesley stayed in America for many years after the war ended -- they didn't want to put their Dalmatian dogs through the six months' quarantine that was then required to bring pets into England.

Homesickness helped inspire Smith's first novel, I Capture the Castle, which evokes a peculiarly English version of genteel poverty. The 17-year-old narrator and her family, who live in a dilapidated house built onto a ruined castle, belong to "that odd class of intelligent and cultured people who are also unskilled and unemployable," as Salon writer Charles Taylor put it. From its much-quoted opening sentence ("I write this sitting in the kitchen sink") to its bittersweet ending, Smith's witty coming-of-age tale has captivated adolescent and adult readers alike. Writers from J. K. Rowling and Susan Isaacs to Armistead Maupin and Erica Jong have praised it for the merits Penelope Lively summed up as "a good story, flourishing characters, and the most persuasive narrative voice."

Smith's other well-known work, The Hundred and One Dalmatians, was published in 1958 and is now considered a classic work of children's literature, though not all fans of Disney's 101 Dalmatians realize that the movie was based on a book. (Smith's sequel to Dalmatians, a fantasy titled The Starlight Barking, bears no resemblance to the Disney film sequel 102 Dalmatians). Towards the end of her life, Smith produced four volumes of autobiography: Look Back with Love: A Manchester Childhood, Look Back with Mixed Feelings, Look Back with Astonishment and Look Back with Gratitude.

A few of Smith's plays are still produced occasionally, but she remains best known for I Capture the Castle and The Hundred and One Dalmatians. To Smith's fans, this is no small accomplishment -- as Sue Summers pointed out in The Guardian, "Two prose classics in one lifetime is more than most writers achieve."

Good To Know

Though Smith's books have a cozy, old-fashioned charm, Smith herself was a bit of an iconoclast. After several youthful love affairs, she fell in love with a co-worker, Alec Beesley. For the first few years of their relationship, they lived in separate London flats but shared a weekend cottage in the country. After they married and moved into one house, Smith attributed their years of happy domestic life to their habit of keeping separate bedrooms.

Pongo, the canine hero of The Hundred and One Dalmatians, was named after the first of Smith's own much-loved Dalmatians. Smith said she began to get ideas for the story after a friend joked that a Dalmatian would make a good fur coat.

Disney once planned to film I Capture the Castle as a vehicle for child star Hayley Mills, but script problems kept the movie out of production. Years later, Smith's estate got the movie rights back from Disney in exchange for permission to make a live-action version of 101 Dalmatians.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Dorothy Gladys Smith (full name); C. L. Anthony
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 3, 1896
    2. Place of Birth:
      Whitefield, Lancashire, England
    1. Date of Death:
      November 24, 1990
    2. Place of Death:
      Uttlesford, Essex, England

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 12, 2013

    A few months back I read the first book in this trilogy by Dodie

    A few months back I read the first book in this trilogy by Dodie Smith and I loved reading the original tale of the 101 Dalmatians. So when I decided to host the 2013 Pre-1960 Classic Children's Books Reading Challenge I immediately put this one on hold. Unfortunately for me the book was published 7 years too late to qualify for the challenge but I read it anyways.

    This book centers around Pongo and Missis, the main characters from the 101 Dalmatians and a few of their pups plus some other beloved characters that appeared in the first book as well as the Walt Disney animated film of the same name. In this book the dogs wake up to a world filled with silence in which canines are the only animals awake, well the dogs, and 3 honorary dogs which include two cats and a young boy named Tommy.

    I thought the characters were simply delightful. While the book is written at a bit of a hire level for young children nowadays, we simply forget that children's books used to be written a lot different compared to those we see more often. As I said the characters were delightful and it was lovely to see much of the original cast and to meet some new faces as well which included the dog version of the British parliament.

    What I enjoyed most about the novel was the story itself which takes on a bit of a science fiction slant which I was not expecting at all and since I don't want to ruin it for anyone who may read it let me just say that I thought it was rather unique to have that in a child's book about dogs and I think Dodie Smith did a lovely job incorporating the science fiction aspects into her book in a way that wasn't to high brow for children to understand and like. I think the fact that the book offered something different was wonderful.

    It's well known that Dodie Smith is a wonderful children's author and this book just adds to her repatoir. I loved the way she created her characters and gave them all different personalities and quirks to go along with them as well and I thought it was one of the most heartwarming novels with a great amount of adventure that I've read in a long and I think this is one along with the preceding book that should be in every child's library.

    I would recommend this to anyone who has a child to include this in their child's library. While like I mentioned before it may be a little harder for toddlers to comprehend it would make for the perfect bedtime read for older children.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2008

    Disappointment, thy name is ''The Starlight Barking''

    While there's an Important Message about nuclear warfare being a Bad Thing, by and large this is a forgettable follow-up to Smith's classic ''The Hundred and One Dalmatians,'' which was immortalized -- and by the author's own account, improved upon -- in the 1961 Disney film. The writing is heavy-handed and while full of cute moments, by and large it lacks the charm of the original. A little too much metaphysical swooshing, and not enough meat to the story. Sometimes books go out of print for a reason, and the 1997 reprint of ''The Starlight Barking'' is a good reminder why.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2003

    Good book

    This was a cute sequel to 101 dalmatians. It was great but could've been better.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2002

    What a Disappointment

    I expected this book to live up to the standard that Ms. Smith set with _The 101 Dalmatians_. That was not nearly met. Perhaps it was just too 'metaphysical' for me. It was surely that. As opposed to a highly imaginative, pseudo realistic but not totally fantasy book, _The Starlight Barking_ falls squarely into the fantasy category, and it makes for a poor example of the genre. Although it was mildly entertaining, it really didn't come close to matching my expectations. Sigh...

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