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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Review: A Dog Called Homeless by Sarah Lean

Heartwarming tale of friendship and hope after loss for the 9-12 crowd (and teens, and adults...)

How much do I love this book? It's a delicious piece of writing, warm and emotional without being schmaltzy or manipulative. I'm pretty confident that it's the only book that both my daughters (aged 9 and 14) and I have all read within a short space of time and all loved. I think it was on the teen shelves in Waterstones, and it was the 14 yr old who asked for it and devoured it very quickly, telling me that I should read it. Then when I did, I realised that it was labelled as 9+ (thankfully the teen hadn't noticed that...) and the younger one had it off me quick as a flash. I think a single book appealing to both my girls at the same time is pretty unusual and goes to show how fab this book is: gentle enough for a 9 yr old, yet also enough to sustain a teen's interest. Pretty damn impressive, I would say!

The novel is narrated by Cally, who tells us in a statement preceding the first chapter that she hasn't spoken for 31 days. Her narration is pitch-perfect and gives us privileged access to all her thoughts and feelings, even as she's stopped sharing them with anyone else in her life. Poor Cally is mourning the loss of her mother a year ago, and struggling particularly with her father's awkward adult response of never talking about her. She sees a vision of her mother, but no-one believes her, and then the wonderful dog (a silver wolfhound, no less) enters her life. This dog, being huge, is not always welcomed by everyone else, and her teachers and her father particularly don't want it hanging around.

The plot moves along effectively, with all aspects of Cally's life - home, school, family, friends - explored and changed in the course of the novel. I think Sarah Lean captured Cally's grief and its effects on her beautifully, allowing us to share Cally's feelings without being overwhelmed by them. The grief is there, but this is no wallowy book. Instead, it's an optimistic read which offers up hope in the form of friendship, as well as the comforting subtext that adults aren't always automatically right.

Overall, I cannot recommend this highly enough. Just read it, ok? :)

From the Book's Website:

My name is Cally Louise Fisher and I haven't spoken for thirty-one days. Talking doesn’t always make things happen, however much you want them to.

Cally Fisher saw her mum bright and real and alive. But no one believes her, so Cally’s stopped talking.

A mysterious wolfhound always seems to be there when her mum appears and now he’s started following her everywhere. But how can Cally convince anyone that Mum is still with them, or persuade Dad that the huge silver-grey dog is their last link with her?

published in April 2012 by HarperCollins Children's
For more info and an extract see the book's website

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