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Seff Lassock.

Grand Rapids (MI), Baker Book House, c1982.
Distributed by Welch.
159pp, paper, $4.95.
ISBN 0-8010-5622-5.

Grades 5 and up.
Reviewed by Sally Davis.

Volume 11 Number 3.
1983 May.

The first reaction by some children to this book may be one of revulsion due to its title and picture on the cover. It is unfortunate that the word "killer" is used in the title and that the cover has a picture of a ferocious dog about to attack. Some children will reject the book as "too scary." However, others may think they would like it since it seems to promise gory happenings. It is not a scary book, nor is it a gory one.

The story is about a grown-up-talking nine year old boy who is lonely now that his father has walked out on his career-minded mother. To help her son overcome his loneliness, his mother decides to give him the money to go to the pet store and buy a toy poodle puppy. Bradley meets up with the boy next door, a tough-talking ten year old with a practical outlook on life, learned from his German immigrant parents. The two return home not with a toy poodle but with a full-grown stray German Shepherd, procured through the SPCA for practically nothing.

All is beautiful for Bradley now that he has a companion capable of giving him friendship, love, and security, until the mystery is uncovered of how the dog came to be at the SPCA. This seemingly harmless dog, named Brute by his new master, turns out to be a highly trained guard dog, capable of killing if given the command words. Bored with his job of guarding a construction site, Brute had run away and been picked up as a stray. Brute has to be returned to his owner, a man in the business of training guard dogs. Bradley, with the help of his friend, carry out a carefully planned plot to free Brute and run away from home with him. The missing boys are the object of a search by their fathers. The tension is high when the dog almost kills Bradley's dad.

As the finale approaches, the pieces fall into place. Bradley's parents settle their quarrel, although at the expense of mother giving up her career. The families of the two boys become good friends, whereas there had been anti-German prejudice keeping them apart up to this point. The killer dog is returned to his trainer and sold to protect a rich family ("rich people have lots of enemies") but not before he has fathered a litter of puppies, one of which is destined to become Bradley's.

This is the author's first juvenile fiction book; he has previously only written for adults. It has a carefully constructed plot and will provide the reader a story to enjoy and think about. One major point for the young reader to mull over is the validity of training dogs to become killers of people, no matter what the circumstances.

Sally Davis, St. John's, NL.
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