CM . . .
. Volume XIV Number 3 . . . .September 28, 2007
Glenda Goertzen. Illustrated by Peter Hudecki.
Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2007.
133 pp., pbk., $11.95.
Grades 3-7 / Ages 8-12.
Review by Deborah Mervold.
*** ½ /4
A week later, Pierre and Dare still had not been found.
"Where do you think you're going, young lady?" Old Sam said as Mew crept toward the pet door in Mr. Abram's house. "You're not to leave the house until Mr. Abram wakes from his nap."
"But I have to pee," she whined, doing a desperate little dance to make it more convincing.
"Oh no, you don't." Old Sam placed himself in front of the pet door. "You just want to sneak under the fence again and look for Pierre and Dare."
"No one else is looking for them!" Mew gave the basset hound a swipe with her paw, but he wouldn't move.
The delightful sequel to Prairie Dogs continues the adventures of Pierre, the poodle, who was inadvertently left at a gas station by his owners. Pierre was a show dog but was tired of his life. He has become the leader of a group of dogs who were adopted by Mr. Abram at the end of the last book. Everything is going well until Mr. Abram, much to the dismay of his dogs, takes them to visit the veterinarian. His neighbor who has adopted Bull, the leader of the Bulldogs and nemesis of Dare (short for Daredevil) and Pierre, also shows up at the vet clinic. The vet has announced that Dare is pregnant when Bull chases Dare and Pierre out into the yard.
Because of the terrible storm, all three are soon lost in the snow. A van stops and picks them up. Their adventure turns from bad to worse as the van is driven by a dognapper who works for a pet store in the city. The dogs are transported to the city where they are kept in cages until they are sold. Pierre has the idea that if they act like they are sick no one will buy them which will give them time to escape. This finally happens. Bull decides to take the other dogs and lead a pack of city dogs. Dare and Pierre start for home, but they need to find shelter when Dare is ready to have the puppies. Pierre is feeling like he is too young to be a dad, but he finds Dare a warehouse on the edge of town, which is also used by a local television company.
In the meantime, Mew, Mouse and Ratter leave the comfort of Mr. Abram's house to try and find their friends. They decide to hop on the train with Juju's help. Too late, Juju brings up the fact that there is more than one city and that consequently finding Dare and Pierre might be a difficult task. Nevertheless, they are on their journey. Luckily for them, there is a train crash, and the television van records the event. Mouse recognizes Pierre's smell, and the dogs hide in the van. Eventually, the dogs reunite. Pierre has the difficult task of finding food for Dare and the two puppies. Dare discovers that the television program shot in the warehouse is one that Mr. Abram watches, and, through an interesting series of events, Mr. Abram is happily reunited with his dogs. The dognappers are arrested, and the adventure ends on a happy note.
As in Prairie Dogs, the humour in City Dogs is delightful. The characters, again, are the dogs who add their own humour to the story as they are naive but loveable. When Mew, Mouse and Ratter go off to find their friends, they are wearing clothing knit for them. When Pierre is out looking for food, a bird, Pica, gives him a great deal of help. Pica is literally a smoking magpie. All of the characters provide an interesting picture, realistic to their situation.
This book has a number of coincidences which are believable but stretch the imagination. When Pierre marks his territory at the warehouse, he marks the tire of the television van. That ends up being the same van that the reporters use to take pictures at the train crash. This is the connection that the dogs use to find Pierre and Dare. Similarly, when Pierre is looking for food, he leads a raid on a dog food warehouse. It happens to be the same distributor where the dognapper works. The author does a good job of connecting the events with a reasonable explanation. The premise that Dare uses to be seen on the television program allows Mr. Abram to know where they are and find his pets.
Pierre's history allows him to be aware of tattoos in the ears of dogs. Pierre comes to the realization that dogs would be identified by the original owners who might not be the present owners. His original idea of turning himself and the other dogs over to the shelter requires additional thinking as he doesn't want to go back to his life as a show dog. He doesn't want to be separated from his mate, Dare, and their two offspring.
The relationship among the dogs is comparable to that of people. For example, Mew has big paws and is very clumsy. Pierre is very kind and considerate to his friend, complimenting her so she feels better. When the dogs realize that humans work hard to feed them by making the dog food, some of the dogs are lonely for their owners; others want to keep their independence.
The novel is divided into 16 chapters which end on a high point, thereby encouraging readers to continue reading. Vocabulary is suitable and appropriate for the intended audience. Dialogue is realistic. Although it is a sequel, this book can also stand alone and would appeal to a variety of readers, including readers of animal fiction and adventure stories. City Dogs would be an excellent class novel for individual reading or as a read aloud choice. It would be an excellent addition for personal, class, school and public libraries.
Deborah Mervold is an educator from Shellbrook, SK, who is now doing faculty training and program development at Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology.
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