Saturday, May 18, 2013

Book Review: A Dog's Life

I recently finished reading aloud the book, A Dogs Life: The Autobiography of a Stray.  My students loved this book so I thought I'd share it with you.  I have to be honest, this is the first book I've read aloud to my class that I didn't read for myself beforehand.  This book was suggested in our writing curriculum and I was only going to read two chapters in order to show the trait, organization.  Well, the kids were begging me to read the rest, so we ended up finishing the book! 

I was interested in the book at first because of the author.  I remember reading Ann M. Martin's The Babysitter's Club books when I was younger and really enjoying them. 

I was very surprised as I read aloud A Dog's Life.  This story is so sad and heart-wrenching; I could hardly take it!  My students, however, were very engaged and loved the emotion and drama.  At one point, I asked, "Why do you guys like this book so much?!"  Some of them liked that it was told from a dog's perspective...some of them loved the imagery...some of them just liked the drama and wanted to know what would happen next.  I was ready to put the book down and pick up something positive that wouldn't make me want to cry!

Here's the plot and resolution (from Wikipedia):  "Squirrel is a stray puppy who lives in a shed behind the summer home of a wealthy family, the Merrions, with her mother Stream and brother, Bone.  When Stream disappears, Squirrel and Bone set off on their own.  The puppies are picked up by highway travelers named Marcy and George, but are then abandoned and thrown out of a car window [near a mall].  Squirrel and Bone are injured; Bone is taken away by other shoppers, leaving Squirrel, never to be seen again.  Squirrel joins forces with another female stray, Moon, for a short time.  Later, after being attacked by stray dogs at a gas station and being with each other for some time, the pair are struck by a car, killing Moon and injuring Squirrel.  This time, Squirrel is taken to the vet, where she is spayed and her broken leg is treated.  She is renamed Daisy and adopted by a family for the summer as their summer dog.  In the autumn, Squirrel is once more abandoned.  She continues to wander for years.  Then Squirrel, now an old dog, wanders to an old lady's house.  Then the old woman, Susan, sees Squirrel and takes her in.  At the end of the story, Susan finds Squirrel cold and starving in her backyard and tries to coax her in.  Susan had a dog named Maxie in the past.  Squirrel, now an old lady herself, refuses to come over, and Susan has to gain her trust by leaving food out and gradually moving closer each day.  When she finally gets Squirrel inside, she decides to keep her and renames Squirrel "Addie."  Afterwards, Susan and Squirrel, both old ladies, enjoy the rest of their lives together."

I know Martin was trying to open our eyes to the problems facing stray animals, but it was just brutal for me to read.  I asked my class if I should read the book next year to my new class and they all shouted, "YES!"  Even though I wasn't a huge fan of the book, my students raved about it. 

You may check it out for yourself to see if you'd like to read it to your next class.  :)  If you're tender-hearted towards animals, be sure to have Kleenex nearby as you read! 

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