A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
FEBRUARY 14:

  • Happy birthday George Shannon (Tomorrow's Alphabet), Phyllis Root (One Duck Stuck), and Paul O. Zelinsky (Rapunzel).
  • It’s the birth date of Jamake Highwater (1942–2001) Anpao.
  • George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. (1859–1896), inventor of Ferris wheel, was born on this day. Read Ferris Wheel: George Ferris and His Amazing Invention by Dani Sneed.
  • Happy birthday Arizona, founded in 1912. Read My Great-Aunt Arizona by Gloria Houston, illustrated by Susan Condie Lamb.
  • In 1962, First Lady Jackie Kennedy takes television viewers on White House tour. Read A Family of Poems: My favorite Poetry for Children by Caroline Kennedy, illustrated by Jon J. Muth.

Today, of course, we celebrate Valentine’s Day. Today also marks the beginning of the Westminster Dog Show, a time when the top dogs arrive in New York to compete for the crown. My first Valentines on this day always go to my dogs. Some people say that the dog/human connection is one of unconditional love. I’m not so sure of that—my dogs at times indicate they have some reservations about my behavior. Recently, I kept saying to my puppy Lancelot, “I love you, but I do wish you would learn to go ‘outside’ when necessary.” Certainly, the bond between a dog who participates in dog shows and his or her handler is incredibly complex.

This month that relationship gets explored in a new book, A Dog’s Way Home by Bobbie Pyron. In the first chapter, we watch Abby, age eleven, and Tam, a Shetland sheepdog, win an agility contest. Abby does not even need to use hand signals; they work together so well as a team. But on the way home to their small town, Harmony, North Carolina, a horrible car accident on the Blue Ridge Parkway sends Abby to the hospital and Tam sailing out of the truck in his crate.

Now, if you are like me, you will skip ahead and read the last chapter. Like Gordon Korman has said, I also believe in No More Dead Dogs. I do not need to read a book to cry over the death of dog. So here’s the last line of A Dog’s Way Home, “Finally, everything was as it should be.” And that means, of course, Abby and Tam reunited.

Pryon alternates this heart-touching book, one that will remind readers of Lassie Come-Home or The Incredible Journey, between the narrative voices of Abby and Tam. Tam’s voice seems particularly brilliant; he emerges as a real dog, with one concern—to find the girl he loves. But to do that he will almost drown, nearly starve, bond with a coyote, get rescued by a dog shelter, and dodge bullets. His odyssey, as he travels the Parkway four hundred miles to come home to Abby, has all the elements of an epic quest.

Abby tries to soldier on. Her father works as a traveling musician and the family lacks the funds necessary for an all-out search for Tam. But Abby stays true to her belief that Tam lives and that he will find her. At one point, the family moves to Nashville. Abby adjusts, slowly, to the new environment. During the same time in the story, Tam has found someone to care for him and nurse him back to health. Yet neither stops thinking about the other.

A good dog story well-told is much more difficult to write than most people think. Bringing knowledge gained by being a librarian and an animal rescue worker, Bobbie Pryon has pulled together the necessary elements and makes the book original with her portrait of Abby and Tam. The book works as a read alone or read aloud for third through sixth grades. Short chapters, alternating between Abby and Tam, provide just the right amount of material for sharing. Even without a dead dog, this is definitely a three handkerchief ending.

So after you finish watching the Westminster Dog Show, pick up A Dog’s Way Home. And happy Valentine’s Day to you and your canine friends.

Here’s a passage from A Dog’s Way Home:

With a groan, Tam limped down to the creek and drank, careful not to get his feet wet. He lifted his head, nose reading the damp air crisscrossed with scents. Any other time, Tam would have followed his nose through the streams of scent, like a fish hooked on a line.

But Tam was hurt. And a hurt dog knows only one thing to do: hide and be still.

Tam took one last drink, then limped back to his shelter. He lowered himself to the ground with a whimper.

 

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Originally posted February 14, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Animals, Dogs
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for A Dog's Way Home
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COMMENTS

  1. Sydnee says:

    I love animal/human companion stories. I’m so glad to see you’ve included this book!

  2. G. Perry says:

    What a wonderfully perfect, and loving idea.

    Oh my. A book after mine own heart. I’ll have to work on a special post for this one.

  3. Kate says:

    The love between a child and her dog is unmatchable. What a sweet story, and yes to the no dead dogs!!!! Who needs that?

    This book would be a great read for those kids (or young adults, or -ahem- adults) who cannot have their own dog but want to experience the type of undying love and devotion that (arguably) only a dog can provide.

    HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!! Hooray for puppy love.

  4. Erica S. says:

    For those of you who enjoy both Valentine’s Day and dogs, I wonder if you’ve read “Freckles and Willie” by Margery Cuyler (illus. by Marsha Winborn)? Although I don’t think this book is in print anymore, it’s always the first thing I think of on Valentine’s Day – a perfect combination of dog love and people love!

  5. Teri-K says:

    “Love is the difficult realization that something other than oneself is real.” I have this Iris Murdoch quote on my blog right now. I think that for many children, and some adults, the first realization that “something other than oneself is real” happens when they bond with a pet. That may be why that love is so deep and never forgotten. But reading your post I realized how few modern kid’s books recognize that. I wonder if that’s because children have fewer pets, or that it’s hard to write about this relationship without getting overly sentimental? At any rate, thanks for sharing a book that celebrates this strong bond — with a happy ending.

  6. Colleen says:

    This is such a fitting choice for Valentine’s Day. As part of our celebration, my husband and I decided to watch a documentary on how dogs have evolved to be able to understand human facial expressions and emotions and the science that supports the relationship between humans and “man’s best friend.” It was amazing – – and now I must read this book! Just reading your synopsis made my eyes tear up a bit but I’m sure I will love it!

  7. Judy Freeman says:

    Anita–
    Thanks for this review–can’t wait to read the book, which I’ve retrieved from my shelf. I’m more of a cat person, but I love a good dog story, too. Last week, I flew home after a week on the road, landing in Newark. Descending the escalator to Baggage, I heard loud barking. Walking over to get my bags, I was thrilled to see 5 or six big dogs scampering around the carousel. There was a great Dane, a sausage-like basset hound, and a gorgeous mid-sized dog with deeply reddish fur. I asked his handler what kind of dog it was and she told me it was a Finnish Spitz. I’d like one of those, please. Why were there dogs everywhere? They were on their way to the Westminster Dog Show at Madison Square Garden. OK, I didn’t get to the dog show, but I had my own private preview at the airport, which was very fun.

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