There are some species on this planet who
deceive us, and enjoy doing so.
This book is tough. It is so tough to read it took me over a week to reach the end. I kept having to stop for a day or two to recover from the violence and emotional blackmail. Now I guess you might be thinking NO I won't read this book but actually I am going to say the opposite - do read this book. It is so powerful and well worth riding its emotional roller coaster BUT do not skip to the end. You can trust Andy Mulligan. There should be a happy ending but the twists and turns of this journey will shock and possibly disturb you even more forcefully if you don't know the outcome.
It is interesting to think about the animal characters in this book. Spider, the puppy is good and Moonlight, the cat is pure evil but the other animals characters are harder to characterise perhaps even ambiguous. It is easy to understand why Spider is so confused.
Dog his name is Spider he is very young - only 11 weeks old when we meet him.
Thread tells him:
"Take a look at yourself little dog. You're weak, and you're skinny ... you're still lopsided and clumsy. You're out of proportion too, and you're probably not aware of it, but when you close your mouth your jaws don't shut properly. One tooth remains visible, so you look awkward."
He is a puppy, he is naive, he is trusting and he is loyal.
"He had a home. He had a name. Best of all, he had an owner who needed him - and that was simply too good to be true."
Cat her name is Moonlight. Be warned if you love cats this might not be the book for you. This cat fits the stereotype - she is manipulative, selfish, cruel and very vain. Moonlight relishes her power over Spider. She even convinces him that he might be part cat!
"... and suddenly she was beside him, pressing herself into the rough brickwork, so they were shoulder to shoulder. Spider leant against her, feeling the warmth of her fur. For the first time he caught the scent of his companion, and he was utterly confused."
"The mirrors told her she was still beautiful; there was one up ahead so she practiced her purposeful stride. There was one to the right as well, so she checked her whole aerodynamic form, adjusting her tail and lifting her hips."
Spider his name is Thread. Right from the start he tells the puppy "Spiders never lie, because it's not in their nature; we can only deal with the facts." And yet when our puppy meets Jesse she says "You don't listen to spiders, surely?" and Flea says "It must have wrecked your confidence, because that's what spiders do. They're complete liars - everyone knows that. They make webs! They're stealthy. That's how they survive. ... They're generally sadistic, solitary and desperately unhappy. They lie for the pleasure of lying, and they feed off the misery of others."
Fox her name is Jesse. Meeting Jesse is such a relief because she is the first animal who is genuinely kind to Spider. She has no agenda. Jesse sees Spider is skinny, hungry and anxious but oddly this little black and white dog is keeping company with a group of cats. Jesse loathes these cats. Jesse is a good friend. She shares her home and food and sets off with Spider on his journey to find Tom. Sadly foxes do not do well in open country when men and dogs are hunting.
Flea has no name. It jumps onto Spider just as Jesse is chased to her death.
"... he saw the tiniest insect he'd ever seen. It had wormed its way deep into his coat, but he could still make out a greyness. It seemed to have its head jammed out of sight, but even as he watched, the little creature shifted itself around and looked up guiltily. There was a tiny spot of blood on its face, and Spider knew at once that it was his own."
The plot in essence is quite simple - a boy wants a dog, a boy gets a dog, a misunderstanding means the dog runs away, the dog survives several awful scrapes and then .... I am not going to spoil the ending. It is the relationships that make this book so interesting. Click the review quotes below for more plot details. From this site there is a link to the first chapter as a reading sample.
I recommend this book for readers aged 11 and over - and while I rarely say this I do think this is a book that will especially appeal to boys. If you have read and enjoyed Pax then Dog would be the perfect next book. You might also follow Dog with the Paul Jennings title A different dog. I would also recommend reading or re-reading the classics Charlotte's Web and The Incredible Journey which feature much kinder relationships between animals. Readers who enjoyed One Dog and his Boy when they were younger might take a look at Dog.
Here is an interview with the author. Here is my review of another book by Andy Mulligan Trash.
Original, thought-provoking and with a dark humour, this is an ultimately uplifting read, and very memorable. LoveReading4Kids
This edgy, unsettling story features talking animals and their various relationships with the human world. Books for Keeps