________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 13 . . . . March 4, 2005


The Prairie Dogs.

Glenda Goertzen. Illustrated by Philippe Beha.
Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2005.
164 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 1-55005-113-X.

Subject Heading:

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Deborah Mervold.

**** /4


Fortunately, Montreal had good reason to be proud of Pierre. When he put his mind to it, no dog could beat him in an agility trial. He sailed over hurdles like a little deer, dashed through tunnels like a rabbit, and whipped through the weave poles like a snake with its tail on fire. As the snarling dogs closed in on him, he ran straight at them, jumping over their backs, ducking under their bellies, weaving between their legs-back and forth and around and around until they tripped over themselves and snapped at each other in confusion.

The bull terrier, not so easily bamboozled, singled Pierre out of the tangle of dogs and lunged at him. Pierre leaped straight into the air, sailed over the dog’s head and onto his back. From there he bounced to the ground. He dashed down the length of the alley and around to the front of the Gas ‘n’ Go, where the motor home - was gone.

When the motor home pulls away from the gas station without Pierre, the champion agility poodle knows that his owners will soon return for him. He is a champion returning home to Montreal from Vancouver. He is excited about his freedom and meets up with a group of dogs called The Prairie Dogs, including their leader, Dare, who searches for different scents so that she is undetectable by other dogs, and Mouse, who eats bugs. They are later joined by Mew, a puppy who thinks he’s a cat. Pierre’s amazing agility saves the day when the Prairie Dogs encounter the Bull Dogs who are terrorizing the town.

     A variety of other dogs become part of this story: Daisy, a pampered inside dog who is intrigued by danger, and the Bull Dogs, Titan and Sheba ,who are guard dogs, and Old Sam, a beagle who walks with Mr. Abrams. The plot begins with Pierre’s being left, by his own choice, in the town and looking for adventure. He likes the Prairie Dogs, and they help him survive. The Bull Dogs realize his potential, and they want his expertise as they travel to the city. When Pierre tries to return Mew to the farm after the death of Mew’s mother, a farm cat, they encounter Wolf, who is part wolf, part dog, stealing exotic birds from Mr. Calloway’s farm. Mr. Calloway blames Pierre for the dead bird. Everyone is chasing the dogs when Mr. Abrams is injured and Pierre needs to get help.

     The dogs are realistic but also have human qualities. Titan is mean but really only wants friends. Pierre is positive and thinks there is nothing that he can’t accomplish. Dare is realistic while Mouse tends to be afraid. The dialogue is well written so that the humour of the situation becomes apparent. There are many excellent lines such as “children trudged reluctantly back into their kennel” which is how the dogs saw children returning to school after recess. Mouse is told, “Just say no” when she is tempted to chew bumblebees because they look so juicy.

     Many different themes could be explored through this novel. What does it mean to be out of your element? How do you act when you don’t have friends? What happens if you think only of yourself? Things aren’t always what they seem. Sometimes you have to trust in others and look for help from unexpected sources. There is always a way to solve a challenge. Pierre would “rather die for love than for hate.”

     There are fourteen chapters which divide the plot into manageable sections. The plot moves very well and keeps the reader’s interest. The text is large and easy to read. Illustrations by Philippe Beha add humour to the text. The book was very enjoyable. It was suspenseful to see if Pierre’s owners would return, if Pierre would be caught by the Bull Dogs or Mr. Calloway, and if Mr. Abrams has gone to the “Forever Field,” like Mew’s mother, after he left in the ambulance. The ending is delightful.

     The novel is highly recommended as a read aloud book to younger children and a must for school, public and personal libraries for middle year students.

Highly Recommended.

Deborah Mervold, a retired teacher-librarian, educator and Resource Based Learning Consultant, lives in Shellbrook, SK.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.