Angus, Sam. Soldier Dog.
16 April 2013 by Feiwel &Friends
Stanley's life in rural Lancashire in 1917 is troubled. His mother has died, his brother Tom is off fighting in France, and the only bright spot is his dog Rocket. Unfortunately, Stanley let Rocket (a champion racer) out of the house when she was in heat, and by the time he retrieves her, she is pregnant. The father is very displeased; not only will the puppies be "tinker's dogs", but Rocket will not be as fast. When he chooses to drown the runt of the litter, Soldier,this is the final straw. Stanely runs away from home and joins the army at the age of 14. He claims to know something about horses, and eventually winds up in a unit training messenger dogs. He and his dog, Bones are sent to France, where they see the gruesome aspects of war as well as the difficult living conditions. After Bones is killed in the line of duty, Stanley just wants to go home, but gets another dog who has been horribly abused. The dog takes to him, for surprising reasons we find out later, and Stanley is back in the war. Tom is determined to make sure Stanley gets home safely, and Stanley's father is so remorseful over his treatment of Stanley that he joins up and is fighting in France as well.
Strengths: World War I was a devastating war, and not as much is known about the atrocities. There are a handful of books involving service dogs now available (Shadow, by Morpurgo; London's excellent Dog Tags books, Kadohata's Cracker), but none set during World War I. Well researched, this had a lot of information about the conditions during WWI.
Weaknesses: This style of this was a bit odd; it reminded me of Lassie a bit. Perhaps the rural English setting? The letters to various characters were rendered in handwriting, which was harder to read, and Stanley's father was a hard character to figure out. Because of the popularity of any and all war books, however, I think I will go ahead and purchase this one.