A Tuesday Ten: Man’s Best Friend
So things are going a tad slow with the blog this week since I’ve been fighting off the flu. But here’s our list! I figured since I’ve done a list featuring cats, it was high time I did a list featuring dogs. Now, dogs are not as prevalent as cats in lead roles, but you find them cropping up regularly as companions on quests, partners in work, and friends until the end. I’ve tried to select stories here where the dogs are fairly front and center.
Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones (Greenwillow, 1975)
So we’re going to kick this list off with what might be my favorite dog story of the bunch. Diana Wynne Jones is known for writing quirky magical wizard and witch stories that have a distinctly humorous flair. This lesser known story is one of her most serious and in some ways most imaginative. The Dogstar, Sirius, is tried for murder and sentenced to a lifetime as a dog on Earth. A story that is hard to explain but an amazing bit of fantasy fiction.
City of Dogs by Livi Michael (Putnam, 2007)
A mixture of mythologies inhabit this story. Jenny is a dog who got in the way of the gods when she attempted to save her last master and threw her world into turmoil. Now this plucky Jack Russell has escaped to Earth, but trouble has followed her. With the help of five neighborhood dogs, Jenny is going to have to save the world from Cerberus and Fenrir. A dog tale of high fantasy if ever there was one!
Space Dogs by Justin Ball and Evan Croker (Knopf Books, 2009)
This odd and funny adventure science fiction story is actually based on a real science fact. The story starts with Laika, the first dog to be sent into space. In this book, Laika’s craft is sucked through a wormhole and winds up on the planet Gersbach. The inhabitants of said planet are intelligent, but very small. The people of the planet travel to Earth on a mission and construct a spacecraft with the outward appearance of a small dog. This way, they believe, they can blend in on Earth. Hilarity, helpful kids, canine encounters and lots of fun.
Flawed Dogs by Berkeley Breathed (Philomel, 2007)
Sam the Lion is a dachshund bred to be a show dog. Through the machinations of a jealous poodle, Cassius, Sam loses his home, his friend and his leg. What’s a three legged dog to do? Join together with other flawed dogs (and one misfit cat who wants to be a dog) and stage a raid on the Westminster dog show to exact revenge on Cassius. Despite the hilarity of some of the story, this takes some dark and thought provoking turns which may be a little to mature for some readers.
The Empty City by Erin Hunter (HarperCollins, 2012)
The first book in the new Survivors series. The group of authors that have written the very popular feline fantasy series Warriors are back with a canine style fantasy offering. After a huge and devastating earthquake, many dogs find themselves on their own for the first time, without their humans and having to survive. Enter Lucky, a loner dog who forges a pack with the left behind leash dogs and attempts to lead and train them. No idea if this series will be as big a hit as the original Warriors, but worth a mention here.
Ghost Dog Secrets by Peg Kehret (Dutton, 2010)
If any trope tends to show up often with dogs, it’s ghost dogs. (I guess it’s easy to imagine faithful companions sticking around). In this ghost story, a young boy is prompted by a ghost collie to feed a dog chained up with no food or water. Young Rusty ultimately rescues the dog when he discovers the canine is injured, but will others see it as a rescue . . . or stealing. Our mysterious ghost dog has it’s own set of secrets to share . . . if Rusty is willing to discover them.
The Last Dogs: The Vanishing by Christopher Holt (Little, Brown, 2012)
The first book in a new series The Last Dogs this story opens with all the human disappearing. Max can’t understand what’s happened to his human family, but this golden lab is off in search of canines who might be able to help him. Max and his furry friends will deal with many challenges in this post-apocalyptic style environment. Ultimately, this adventure is just the beginning of the story. An interesting science fiction style story that has the dogs as the left behind critters rather than a few people or kids.
The Mesmer Menace by Kersten Hamilton, illustrated by James Hamilton (Clarion, 2013)
Here’s my steampunk addition for the list. The first story in what is likely to be a series of quick and inventive Gadgets and Gears stories. Wally Kennewickket and his dashing dachshund Noodles are left to watch over the Amazing Automated Inn when his parents head off on a mission to help Theodore Roosevelt. Full of wild inventions, bizarre villainous plots and prolific alliteration, this was an entertaining read. Noodles serves as our narrator throughout the book.
Night Gate by Isobelle Carmody (Yearling, 2002)
I have a real soft spot for this high fantasy adventure. Rage Winnoway’s (how’s that for a heroine name?) best friends are her dogs: Bear, Billy Thunder, Elle and Mr. Walker . When she’s challenged by the mysterious Firecat to step through the Night Gate portal into another world, her canine companions (and one tag along goat) come with her. All the dogs are transformed when they go through the gate, Bear becoming an actual Bear and the other three becoming human. Rage and her companions must find a way to save the world of the Valley before it is lost forever. Now this is pegged as a trilogy, but to date there are only two titles out. The second is Winter Door (2003), but no third book that I can find, which is a disappointment.
The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith (Heineman, 1956)
Seriously, what would this list be without one of the most famous dog fantasy stories? While more people may know the Disney version of Pongo and Missus and their puppies, the original story was by Dodie Smith. A lot more details of what happens in the story, and some delightfully pointed revenge on Cruella that never made it into the movie. Some stuff not to love: this feels dated and at times downright chauvinistic. But it’s worth a look as a classic. Something I did not know is that it’s actually got a bizarre sequel The Starlight Barking (1967). The sequel takes place when the original pups are grown, and events transpire that have every human fall sound asleep, unable to wake. A canine visitor from the Dog Star comes to earth with a message for the dogs . . . I haven’t read it, but according to commentary on it, it never lived up to the charm and delightful romp of the first book.
So there’s my list, a bit late and hope you’ll overlook the typos, I’m still getting over this flu!
What canines are your favorites? Comments welcome!
Posted on October 10, 2013, in General Posts, Lists and tagged Books, Children's Books, Children's Literature, fantasy, Lists, MG Books, Middle-Grade Fiction, Reading, Science Fiction. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.