BIG LITTLE DOG
Volume 21 Number 5
Big Little Dog is a short novel about a dog with a big heart. Denali, which means "The Big One" in Athapaskan, is small for a sled dog, just as Jimmy is short for his age. Jimmy's parents repeatedly tell him, "It doesn't matter what size a person is: it's what's inside that counts," and this story is an extension of that expression.
The taunts of "Shortie!" at school and Jimmy's love for the runt of the litter inspire Jimmy to train Denali for the one-dog pull at the Rendezvous Winter Festival. Overcoming size and age, Denali and Jimmy train for the winter festival, where Denali is pitted against several other dogs, including a huge black Newfoundland. Inevitably, the Newfoundland wins but Denali, who attracts dubious comments at the beginning but quickly becomes the crowd's favourite, is given a special second place prize and the 700 pounds of dog food he was able to pull over the finish line.
The story is short and easy to read. It would appeal to dog lovers in late Primary or early Intermediate grades. There are a few confusing elements, largely due to the unidentified location of the story, and I don't know how many pounds a sled dog can realistically pull, but it's a heart-warming if somewhat predictable story of a small boy overcoming personal obstacles and growing up in rural northern Canada.
Allison Haupt is Coordinator of Children's and "Young Adult Services at North Vancouver District Public Library in North Vancouver, British Columbia.
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