Children's Literature - Debra Lampert-Rudman
Home is where your friends live, according to a young dog named Waggit who finds himself far from home without a friend in the world quite often in this story. In Waggit Again, the sequel to Howe's Waggit's Tale, Waggit is a talking dog who, early in his journey home to Central Park, finds an "upright" (a name for human beings) named Felicia who can understand him. Squirrels are called "Curlytails," a "Feeder" is a Restaurant, and "Ruzelas" are anyone in authority from rangers to policemen, and so forth. A glossary at the back of the book covers the extensive dog-vocabulary. Each of the characters struggles through some very trying experiences. Lug, one of Waggit's dog friends, was repeatedly beaten by the person who fed him at a bar. Waggit was abandoned by his owner, so he is afraid of being abandoned again. Motherless, troubled characters comfort one another throughout the book, and there is a death and funeral, as well. Readers may draw comparisons between foster and homeless situations with some of the dogs' stories. This book could lead to discussions on definitions of family, courage, responsibility, and social issues for middle-grade students. Reviewer: Debra Lampert-Rudman
School Library Journal
When Waggit, a dog, runs away from a farm where he was left by his owner, he begins a dangerous journey. His goal is to return to New York City's Central Park where he had lived with a pack of dogs until a woman had adopted-and then deserted-him. He befriends Felicia, a woman who can talk to dogs. He also ends up traveling with Lug, a pit bull afraid of his own shadow. The trio makes it to Central Park where Waggit is reunited with his friends but encounters some disturbing changes within the pack that he must help to rectify. Waggit is an empathetic main character whose resilience will endear him to readers. The challenges he encounters create a fast-paced tale. The wide range of human and animal characters adds interest to the story, such as kindly and resourceful Felicia and vicious and clever Tashi, leader of a rogue pack. Some special terminology is introduced to show how dogs might perceive certain things, e.g., humans are called "uprights," rats are known as "scurries," and horses are referred to as "longlegs." A glossary helps readers understand these terms, which are at times a bit awkward and, maybe, unnecessary in this spirited and appealing adventure.-Carol Schene, formerly at Taunton Public Schools, MA
In this lovely sequel to Waggit's Tale (2008), which introduced the irrepressible former stray, Howe delves deeper into the bond between humans and dogs and explores friendship, loyalty, courage and doing what's right. At the outset, Waggit is chained on a farm, believing himself to have been inexplicably abandoned by his loving former owner. Escaping this peril, he meets Felicia, a bohemian woman who has the gift of understanding and communicating with dogs. Along the road back to his Central Park home, they encounter Lug, an abused, fearful pit bull. When they find Waggit's original team of strays, he is heartily welcomed, and Felicia and Lug are warily accepted. All is not as it seems, though: Adventures ensue, and allegiances are tested. In the hands of a less-skilled writer, the magical realism of the dog-whispering Felicia might seem unnatural and maudlin at best; here, her relationship with the dogs is made wonderfully plausible. Waggit's growth in self-understanding is also fully developed and well handled, and the ending will satisfy readers deeply. (Fantasy. 9-12)
Read an Excerpt
Waggit Again SNY
Even though he was wearing his leather collar Waggit could still feel the chain biting into his neck as he pulled on it. It hurt to move the links backward and forward over the sharp edge of the rock, but he could bear the pain; what he couldn't tolerate was staying one more day on this farm. So he had done the same thing every night for weeks, ever since the farmer staked him out in the backyard after his fight with the dog called Hodge. The chain was old and rusty, but so far it had resisted his best efforts to snap it.
Maybe tonight, he thought. Maybe it will break tonight.
The night was moonless and very dark, and his escape would be that much easier if he broke free now. He continued to pace back and forth, keeping the chain taut, his head held down, listening to the grinding noise of the metal as it chafed against the rock. The task was made more difficult by the need for silence. The other dogs slept unshackled only a few feet away, and any of them, Hodge in particular, would have raised the alarm if they heard his attempts to break free.
Hodge was the leader of the farmyard dogs. His name was short for Hodgepodge, and he was a tough, lumbering creature who looked as if he had been made out of the parts left over from other dogs. When Waggit and his owner had arrived at the farm after a long drive, she had let him loose in the yard. He had been pleased to see other dogs and had run up to them eagerly. To his surprise they all cowered as he came near. He was just about to explain that he only wanted to say hello when he heard a growl behind him. He turned to seeHodge, his teeth bared and his hackles up.
"Well, what do we have here?" the tough dog said with contempt. "Is this a city dog I see? Have you come here to teach us all your fancy city ways?"
"No," said Waggit, not sure why the dog was being so aggressive. "I only wanted to say hi. I'm just visiting. My owner's going to take me back home in a minute."
"Well," said Hodge, "you'd better hope she does, 'cause we've got some country ways we can teach you, and they all involve pain."
But as it turned out, Waggit's owner didn't take him back. She had driven off, and although at first he had confidently waited for her to return and take him to the city, his optimism had drained away as many days passed and still there was no sign of her. He became resigned to life in the yard, keeping to himself, which wasn't hard to do. If any of the other dogs approached him or tried to be friendly, Hodge snarled at them and told them to leave the "city boy" alone.
This went on until Waggit could stand it no longer. The farmer fed the dogs once a day, putting down battered metal bowls that contained mostly table scraps. Hodge would frequently wolf down his own food and then shove another dog out of the way and take his or her meal as well. He had never tried it with Waggit until one day.
Waggit was about to put his nose into his bowl when he was knocked sideways by Hodge's shoulder.
"Leave it," Waggit barked as the bully was about to empty the bowl of its contents.
"Oh my, a tough guy," Hodge sneered. "And we were all of us just saying what a scaredy-cat you seem to be."
Now, you can call a dog any number of nasty things and they will roll right off his back, but only the most timid of dogs would tolerate being called a scaredy-cat—and Waggit was far from timid. Hodge didn't realize that even though Waggit was still young, he hadn't always been the spoiled pet the country dog mistook him for. Parts of Waggit's short life had been very hard indeed, and although not a fighter by nature, he could only be pushed so far.
Waggit leapt at Hodge without warning, taking the other dog by surprise and putting him on his back. Hodge quickly recovered and went on the attack. But if he was much stronger, Waggit was much quicker, and he would dart in and nip the bigger dog and then retreat. As his opponent lumbered toward him he continued his hit-and-run tactics, driving the bigger dog wild. How this would have ended nobody will ever know, because the noise that the other dogs made as they watched—plus the angry growls of Hodge as he grew more and more frustrated—attracted the farmer's attention, and the next thing Waggit knew he was chained up. The farmer didn't care who was right and who was wrong; he simply needed peace in the farmyard.
Waggit was happy to oblige the man by removing himself completely. And so he moved backward and forward, backward and forward, knowing that every scrape of metal against stone brought him a little closer to freedom. His neck ached with the effort, but still the link wouldn't give. He took a short break and noticed that the sky was beginning to get a little lighter. Dawn was coming. The thought of another day on the farm so panicked him that he pulled against the chain with all his might. Suddenly there was a ping and he fell backward. The chain had broken! Unfortunately as it snapped it snaked back across the yard and hit the sleeping Hodge squarely on the nose. He yelped and sat up, instantly awake. Waggit Again SNY. Copyright © by Peter Howe. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.