Thursday, December 02, 2010

A Guy and his Dog

So, do boys not have dogs anymore? Is it just younger boys who are so pleased to have a pet? I don't have middle school boys asking for books about dogs frequently, but it seems like at one point, this was a big theme. There's Old Yeller, Sounder, Where the Red Fern Grows, Shiloh and Lassie, but when I was looking for updated stories, there weren't a lot. I've starred the three that were the newest choices.

Anyone have any other title recommendations, or is this a moribund genre? This is what I thought until I brought home the following last night.....

Corriveau, Art. How I, Nicky Flynn, Finally Get a Life (and a Dog)

Nicky's mother is starting over without his father... a new life, a new job, a little too much wine, and a new dog for Nicky, who's not all that interested in having to get up in the morning and take the dog for a walk. He's got other things to worry about, like his new school. It's scarier than his old one, what with the metal detectors and the tough kids, and not as academically challenging. Then there's Rita, who wants to hang out with him. He starts to enjoy having a dog a little bit when he takes Reggie to the park, where the dog is recognized as the guide dog of Art, a blind Korean war veteran. Nicky starts hanging out in Art's neighborhood and leading people to believe that he is Art's grandson, in order to find out more about why Reggie ended up at the pound. This slightly humorous and well-paced story uncovers several mysteries about the twists and turns that life can take with delightful realism.

Strengths: This is one of those rare books that both students AND teachers would like. Therefore, it should win the Newbery, but it won't because it is too good. Nicky is such a great character, the descriptions of place (near Boston) add a lot to the story, and the dynamics between the various characters, including Reggie, are painfully true. I just wish I had read this before the book fair, because I would have made sure we sold out of the copies!

Weaknesses: Slightly long for the target audience, and the print was a bit small. Seems silly, but this is a HUGE deal for boys this age who want funny books.

So here's the dog list. Behrens' book has a similar "let's stick the camera up the dog's nose" cover.

*Behrens, Andy. The Fast and the Furriest.
The overweight and unathletic son of a famous former football star discovers that his equally fat and lazy dog is unexpectedly--and obsessively--interested in competing in dog agility contests.

Cleary, Beverly. Henry Huggins.
When Henry adopts Ribsy, a dog of no particular breed, humorous adventures follow.

Cleary, Beverly. Strider.
In a series of diary entries, Leigh tells how he comes to terms with his parents' divorce, acquires joint custody of an abandoned dog, and joins the track team at school.

Dowell, Frances O'Roark. Phineas L. MacGuire-- blasts off!
Hoping to earn money to attend Space Camp, fourth-grade science whiz Phineas MacGuire gets a job as a dog walker, then enlists the aid of his friends Ben and Aretha to help with experiments using the dog's "slobber."

Jacques, Brian. Castaways of the Flying Dutchman.
In 1620, a boy and his dog are rescued from the doomed ship, Flying Dutchman, by an angel who guides them in travelling the world, eternally helping those in great need.

*Kehret, Peg. Ghost Dog Secrets.
Sixth-grader Rusty, determined to help an injured dog that is chained outdoors in frigid weather, calls animal control then takes matters into his own hands, aided by his best friend and a ghost collie that leads Rusty to an even deeper secret. Includes instructions for knitting cat blankets.

Kjelgaard, Jim. Stormy
A large black retriever and young Allan Marley become close companions and join forces against their common enemies.

*Lee, Ingrid. Dog Lost
After living happily in a warm home with an eleven-year-old boy, a pit bull terrier loses his owner and is forced to survive on the streets, where its brave deeds surprise many residents who dislike or fear pit bulls.

Lynch, Chris. Cyberia.
In a future where electronic surveillance has replaced love, a veterinarian is putting computer chips in animals and these creatures choose Zane, who understands their speech, to release them and bring them to a technology-free safety zone.

Mazer, Harry. The Dog in the Freezer.
Each of these 3 novellas looks at the relationship between a boy and a dog in a very different and unusual way.

Paulsen, Gary. Dogsong.
A fourteen-year-old Eskimo boy who feels assailed by the modernity of his life takes a 1400-mile journey by dog sled across ice, tundra, and mountains seeking his own "song" of himself.

Shusterman. The Schwa was Here.
A Brooklyn eighth-grader nicknamed Antsy befriends the Schwa, an "invisible-ish" boy who is tired of blending into his surroundings and going unnoticed by nearly everyone.
Stolz, Mary. A Dog on Barkham Street
Edward dearly wants a dog, and he and his friend Rod survive various adventures before the right dog arrives permanently.

Thomas, Jane Resh. The Comeback Dog
Daniel, a Midwestern farm boy, finds a battered dog in a ditch and nurses it back to health, but is disappointed when the dog doesn't immediately respond to his gestures of affection.

Toft, Di. Wolven
Twelve-year-old Nat, with help from family, friends, and his "pet" Woody, a wolf that turns into a boy, must face werewolves that have been altered as part of a dastardly plan.

Wallace, Bill. A Dog Called Kitty
Afraid of dogs since he was attacked by one that was rabid, Ricky resists taking in a homeless pup that shows up at the farm.


margo/fourth musketeer said...

You might add Everything for a Dog, by Ann M. Martin. It's a touching boy/dog book with two interconnected stories. I didn't enjoy it as much as her book A Dog's Life: Autobiography of a Stray (one of my favorite dog stories!) but it's still good.

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