________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 11 . . . . February 3, 2006


Dog House Blues.

Jacqueline Pearce.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2005.
150 pp., pbk., $8.95.
ISBN 1-55143-360-5.

Subject Headings:
Bullying - Juvenile fiction.
Dogs - Juvenile fiction.
Heros - Juvenile fiction.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Fern Reirson.

**½  /4


Slowly, I looked down at the unfolded note. In the middle of the smudged, creased sheet was a penciled cartoon drawing of a girl. Instead of human ears she had floppy dog ears, and from under her skirt curved a long dog’s tail.  Under the drawing was the scrawled caption, Dog Girl.

“Erika!” Miss Chien’s voice was like an unexpected punch. “Please bring me whatever it is that Mercedes just passed to you.”

“Did she know about Dog Girl? Did she know what the drawing meant? I picked up my pencil again and tried to focus on the work in front of me, but it was hard to concentrate. My throat was still tight, and my stomach now felt like a knot of heavy rope…It had started again.” 


Any pre-teen girl or anyone who’s ever been one, will identify all too well with Erika’s feelings when she is the object of subtle female bullying. Named “Dog Girl” by her rival, Erika struggles to deal with the derogatory looks, name calling and insecurities which arise within her from an all too common experience of pre-teen girls. She is torn by her love of her family’s numerous pets adopted by her veterinarian mother and the shame of being nicknamed “dog girl.” Written for the BC SPCA Kids’ Club and in memory of a friend who died trying to rescue a stray dog, the love and intimacy with which Pearce describes the dogs in this book is evident. The humorous personalities of Erika’s dogs are based on the real life incidents of pets which belong to Pearce’s friends. However, the detailed explanations of the mundane habits of these canine companions lose focus on the bigger issue of the story. At times, it feels like you are reading a manual on pet care. Though intended as a first look at animal issues, it focuses better on its secondary theme.

     Female bullying is a serious and more common issue which affects the lives of many upper elementary girls/junior high girls. This novel provides a realistic examination of the feelings and actions often shown by bullies and people they hurt. A self-confident new friend, a lost dog, a pesky boy, (who seems to turn up wherever she goes), an aware teacher and caring parents, all help Erika to learn how to deal with a bully and develop a better sense of self, which is always tentative at this age.

     This is a recommended read for any girl who is dealing with bullying.


Fern Reirson is the teacher-librarian of Jackson Heights School in Edmonton, AB, and on the executive of the ATA Learning Resources Council.


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

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ISSN 1201-9364
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