Friday 8 June 2012

160. One Dog and His Boy by Eva Ibbotson

One Dog and His Boy by Eva Ibbotson
Published June 2012 Scholastic Australia

From the publisher:

All Hal had ever wanted was a dog. But a dog would damage the expensive carpets in Hal's glamorous home, and his wealthy parents refuse to consider one. Then they discover Easy Pets, a convenient dog-rental agency. Terrier Fleck arrives on Hal's birthday, but when he discover that his dog must be returned, he runs away - along with a group of pedigree breeds joyfully escaping from Easy Pets

This is, sadly, Eva Ibbotson's last book.  She died at the age of 85 in October 2010, just a few weeks after finishing this book.  It is sad because we will no longer have the pleasure of finding a new Ibbotson title on the shelves, which was always a treat.  For those of you have not read any of Ibbotson's earleir works, now is the time to go out and see what you have been missing.

This is another example of a book written for children that doesn't talk down to children.  It shows a cross section of characters that are all honestly portrayed, with their faults or strength of character on show.  Ibbotson, in this book tells it 'like it is', she calls female dogs bitches and she shows that not all adults are nice people.  

Hal is a very lucky boy, and he knows it.  His family is very wealthy, and he wants for nothing.  He can have anything he wants, he only has to ask.  The one and only thing that he really wants, is a dog, but this unfortunately does not fit with the very clean and very beautiful home his Mother has made for them, a dog is unpredictable and dirty, so a dog is out of the question.  In the hope that spending time with a dog, and seeing how difficult it is to look after, his parents hire him a dog for the weekend, but Hal thinks they have given him a dog to keep, and when he finds out that his dog Fleck, has to go back, he feels hurt and betrayed.

Hal decides that he must go to his Grandparents' who he barely knows, because he knows they will understand how much this dog means to him.  So, he goes to Easy Pets to take Fleck away with him, only to find that the other pedigree escapees want to help him on his journey.

The canine characters are as important to this story as the human ones.  We learn about each of the dogs and where they have come from, and what it is they want in their lives to make them happy again.  There's Otto the St Bernard, he is brave and kind and wants to help. Li-Chee a Pekinese who is a fierce guardian, Francine the poodle, who longs for her old life at the circus, and Honey a collie who misses the farm, and all she wants to do is herd.

Hal is joined, not only by the animals, but by Pippa who is the sister of Kayley, who works for East Pets.  Pippa is an animal lover, and so she joins Hal on his journey to find his Grandparents.  While this adventure unfolds Hal's parents are sure their son has been kidnapped...surely he couldn't have run away...why would he he has everything a boy could want!? 

On the way Hal, Pippa and the dogs meet many people.  The good ones, like George and Myra from the circus, Mick from the children's home, the monks at the monastery of St Roc and the bad ones like Kevin the 'dumper'.

The beauty of this book is not just the honest portrayal of the characters, but the sense of hope you get when you realise that, given the reason to do so, people can make changes in their lives.  It also shows that even a child has the right to stand up for what they believe is right.

Who will like this book: Boys and girl age 9+
Read it if you like: The One and only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

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