Coggin, Linda. The Dog, Ray
November 8th 2016 by Candlewick Press
ARC from Young Adult Books Central
Daisy is killed when a horse jumps in front of the car her father is driving, and finds herself in the afterlife, which resembles a job placement office. Since there are few opportunities for reincarnation, she ends up as a dog. At first, she is adopted by a family with a young boy, Cyril, who doesn't want a dog and is mean to her. She runs away, only to end up in a shelter. When she breaks out, she finds two people that had helped her before, the elderly Jack, and the young runaway Pip. Pip has been in foster care because his mother has died of cancer, but is determined to find his biological father. Daisy has tried to make her way to her old home after reading in a newspaper that her father was paralyzed in the accident, but when she finally comes face to face with her parents, her father refuses to adopt her in dog form, because her eyes make him think of Daisy. Eventually, she and Pip locate his family and are able to have a comfortable life and Daisy slowly forgets her former existence.
In the tradition of Zevin's Elsewhere or Mass' Heaven is a Lot Like the Mall, Coggin has created a credible afterlife wherein souls are reused. I personally would argue that in order to be reincarnated as a dog, you have to be incredibly good, but Ray doesn't have an easy dog life. From negligent owners to a close call with euthanasia, Daisy experiences the world from a dog's point of view while still struggling with her human memories and desires.
Pip's quest to find his father is compelling, and it is encouraging that he and Daisy/Ray find people to help them along the way. This is a fairly short book, so there is not a lot of character development, but there are some nice moments. The fact that the homeless Jack and Ray are far nicer and more generous with Daisy than the spoiled Cyril is an especially nice touch.
Readers who like books written from the perspective of animals, or who are interested in the concept of an afterlife will find The Dog, Ray to be an interesting read.
(I can't think of a single reader in my library who would like this. It was clearly British, but little details were changed to make is seem "Americanized", but there was still a pervasive "beans on toast" feeling that would have my readers a bit confused.)