The Dog Who Lost His Bark

Rehabilitation and redemption are possible, and in the right homes, both animals and humans can forge lifelong bonds of love and friendship, as masterfully told in Artemis Fowl series author Eoin Colfer’s latest, The Dog Who Lost His Bark (Candlewick, $16.99, 144 pp, ages 7-10).

Here, we meet a young pup whose lot in life is filled with sadness; sold and boxed up as a surprise Christmas present, Dog is not an overnight success–he’s a puppy after all. Puppies need patience and love, both in short supply at his first home, and he is quickly cast aside, neglected and forgotten, until one day Dog is rolled into a sheet of flooring and tossed into the local trash heap. Dog is so traumatized that he loses his bark. But he winds up at a local shelter, where he’s discovered by a young boy named Patrick whose  father is a musician on tour in Australia, and the child hopes a dog will fill the ache in his heart. Patrick is drawn to Dog’s sadness and makes it is mission to rehabilitate Dog, rechristened Oz in an attempt to summon Patrick’s father.

After much trial and error and unrelenting patience, Oz becomes every child’s dream of a pet. Then Patrick’s life is thrown into disarray, and now it’s time for Oz to rescue his boy. This canine adventure saga is classic children’s book fodder–right up there with Lassie, Come Home and Where the Red Fern Grows. Readers of all ages will be reaching for the tissues while avidly turning each page to see what happens next. Kate Greenaway medal winning illustrator P.J. Lynch’s (The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower; Lincoln and His Boys) soft pencil illustrations are an expert match for a text that is sure to become a household favorite.

 

The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower, or John Howland’s Good Fortune, by P.J. Lynch; Candlewick Press, $17.99, 64 pages, ages 7-10.

Here’s a Thanksgiving story that fully examines the adventure, faith, luck, and unity that defined the Pilgrims’ early days in America. Award-winning author and illustrator P.J. Lynch’s latest children’s book focuses on the life of John Howland (c.1591-1672), an indentured servant who sailed aboard the Mayflower and eventually became the executive assistant to John Carver, New Plymouth County’s first governor. Told in the first person, the fictionalized account of Howland’s crossing takes on a dramatic sense of urgency–England’s Separatist church members (they weren’t pilgrims yet) were being jailed and harassed, and though they had found religious asylum in Holland, church members feared a war with Spain would again put their community in peril.

Lynch details a journey that seems doomed from the get-go (the Mayflower’s sister ship, the Speedwell, never even crossed the Atlantic), and at times it looks like the group won’t make it. (Re-read the title. Howland actually fell off the Mayflower during a storm. That historical nugget inspired Lynch to write the book.) Though originally headed for Virginia, fierce storms bobbled the ship two hundred miles off course, to Cape Cod, where the weary travelers set ashore, where another adventure of survival awaited. Lynch’s gouache paintings expertly capture both the squalor of London and the wilderness of New England. (This is the first book Lynch has both written and illustrated.) Samoset, Squanto, and the great Wampanoag sachem Massasoit are also richly rendered, highlighting the peace these groups enjoyed throughout Howland’s long life. The feast scene is particularly warm, especially after reading about the unforgiving first winter. (Nearly half the settlers died, and lodgings were little more than canvas stretched wooden frames.) The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower also provides surprisingly relevant food for thought in our current debates over refugees seeking religious asylum. The author’s notes and bibliography offer further resources for learning more about this pivotal moment in history.