Themes reminiscent of Jack London's The Call of the Wild ring throughout this vividly imagined animal story. From a canine perspective, Avi (Poppy) relates how a malamute named McKinley's life changes after he encounters a wolf. Head dog in Steamboat Springs, McKinley leads a busy life, protecting his family (including his "human pup," Jack) and keeping order among his canine compatriots in the mountain town. While trying to aid a runaway the forlorn greyhound, Duchess, whose owner offers a reward for her return McKinley encounters Lupin, a wolf who hopes to recruit dogs for her dwindling pack. Lupin's indictment of dogs ("tongue-lapping, tail-wagging slaves who take their food from bowls!") both stirs and shames McKinley; he soon finds his loyalties torn as he simultaneously tries to foil Jack's misguided plan to join the wolves, keep a wounded Lupin safe from those hunting her and fend off Redburn, a conniving Irish setter bent on usurping the hero's place as head dog. The action moves along at a crackling pace, reaching a crescendo in a dramatic moonlight confrontation. The dog's-eye point of view allows for some creative touches, including insights into animal behavior and the vocabulary McKinley uses for various human objects ("eating sticks" for utensils; "a block of staring papers" for book; "glow box" for television), but most compelling of all is the transformation of McKinley's happy-go-lucky character into a truly majestic leader. Ages 8-12. (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
The renowned author of two Newbery Honor books, Avi tries something a little different this time. The story is told from the point of view of McKinley, a German shepherd. In a remote Colorado town, a wolf is trying to make contact with the dogs of the area. The wolf has great disdain for the domestic lifestyle that the dogs comfortably have accepted, yet she wants to recruit a few of them to replenish her pack. This message comes just as an arrogant, spoiled Irish setter begins challenging McKinley for the position of head dog in the town. McKinley is faced with one dilemma after anotherconsidering the wolf's offer himself, preventing his young master from joining the town's wolf hunt, helping a runaway greyhound escape from its owner, and keeping the interfering Irish setter away from them both. Things get more complicated when the wolf is injured and McKinley hides her and then gets in trouble by stealing meat from his home to feed her. A final confrontation with the hunters and the setter and a daring escape bring the story to a satisfactory conclusion. There are some clever devices in the story;the dogs can only understand bits and pieces of what humans say, and they have unusual names for human devices they do not understand, such as televisions and refrigerators. This contrivance, however, gets a little old by the end of the book. Overall this novel for the upper elementary or middle school audience is satisfying, with plenty of adventure, pathos, and conflict. VOYA CODES:4Q 4P M (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses;Broad general YA appeal;Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2001, Simon & Schuster, 256p, $16. Ages 11 to 14. Reviewer:KevinBeachVOYA, December 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 5)
Avi's latest quick read comes from the perspective of McKinley, Jack's beloved malamute. McKinley and Jack share many qualities and concerns of adolescent boys. When a lone she-wolf wanders the outskirts of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, searching for dogs willing to help her to repopulate the pack, McKinley becomes pulled between the wild, free world of his wolf ancestors and the secure confines of his human family. Jack, McKinley's "pup," is an adventurous youngster who wants to share a "jungle book" type of experience with this wolf by joining him for a period in the wild. McKinley is torn between protecting Jack from the wild lupin and exploring his wild animal side while maintaining his leadership position with the town dogs. This turn on point-of-view will keep readers riveted through the last page. 2001, Richard Jackson Book/Atheneum Books for Young Readers, $16.00. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Mary Sue Preissner
Gr 3-6-A story with a decidedly canine point of view that will delight dog lovers. Jack's malamute, McKinley, is the top dog in Steamboat Springs, CO. His enemy is not a cat but a sad excuse for an Irish setter, Redburn. Sedate small-town life is interrupted by the appearance of Lupin, a she-wolf that urges dogs to free themselves from the tyranny of domesticated life. The noble McKinley tries to help her, and save a mistreated greyhound, but is misunderstood and relegated to the "dog house" by rather dim-witted humans. Communication between dogs and humans is awkward at best. There is a lot of dialogue among the dogs, among the humans, and between humans and dogs. The people come off as pretty stupid and McKinley is rather tolerant of the limitations of his "human pup" owner. It is confusing that sometimes McKinley seems to understand exactly what humans think and say and at other times professes ignorance. Still, fans of the film version of The Incredible Journey and Beethoven will lap this up as it has a very cinematic feel. Many scenes seem almost written directly for film. Readers will have no problem following the rapid, almost relentless action. John Erickson's "Hank the Cowdog" series (Viking) and James Howe's "Bunnicula" series (Atheneum) are similar in tone.-Marilyn Payne Phillips, University City Public Library, MO Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
When the wild calls, will this good dog answer? For McKinley the malamute is a very good dog, one who takes his contract with his humans seriously: he assiduously guards his human family, especially the pup, Jack. He is also a politically astute dog: he is head dog of the Steamboat Springs dog pack. His retriever friend Aspen, had she the language of pop psychology, would call him a codependent dog: "You watch out for everybody but yourself." His comfortable life is disturbed when a lamed wolf, Lupin, comes down out of the hills to recruit dogs to join her dwindling pack. McKinley feels drawn to her wildness, while at the same time remaining mindful of his doggy responsibilities. These become immensely more complicated when his pup (inspired by The Jungle Book and Julie of the Wolves) decides to try to run away and live with the wolves even as the human community gears up for a massive wolf hunt and an upstart Irish setter begins to challenge McKinley's leadership. How can McKinley acquit his obligations to his pup, to Lupin, and to an abused greyhound whose escape sets the plot in motion, while at the same time preserving his position in the pack? Avi (The Secret School, p. 1021, etc.) by and large does a creditable job of keeping the many subplots going, although the action occasionally gets bogged down in discussions of the political doggy climate. The narrative is filtered through a dog's-eye-view with occasional whimsical touches (streets have names like "Horse Smell Way"), but for the most part the text takes itself as seriously as McKinley does. Almost wholly absent from the story is a real exploration of the mutual affection that underlies the human-dog relationship;without this, McKinley's decision to stay with his humans rather than follow Lupin is an intellectual, and ultimately unsatisfying, one. (Fiction. 8-12)