________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 21 . . . . June 23, 2006


Dog Walker. (Orca Currents).

Karen Spafford-Fitz.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2006.
110 pp., pbk. & cl., $9.95 (pbk), $16.95 (cl.).
ISBN 1-55143-522-5 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55143-533-0 (cl.).

Grades 6-9 / Ages 11-14.

Review by John Dryden.

**½ /4


"I could do without Tex this week," Kyle says. "Unless his owner has given him a bath. Tex doesn't have much appeal."

"Yeah, nobody came close to Tex last week either," Justin says. "What's the point?"

"What do you mean, 'what's the point'?" I glare at Justin.

Justin's face turns redder than his hair. "You know," he says. "Tex doesn't stir up interest. It's not his fault or anything."

Kyle jumps in. "He just doesn't pull in the girls like the cuter dogs do."

"Yeah. Remember why we're doing this, Turk," Jonathan says.

"Maybe you should remind me."

"Hello! To meet girls!" Justin says.

"Yeah, Turk. What are you getting so uptight about?"

Turk unwittingly discovers that dogs are cute girl magnets and decides to solve his lack of money woes by starting a business walking other people's dogs. Turk, being a lazy teen who professes to be allergic to his own sweat, decides that rather than actually doing the work himself, he will employ his buddies who are interested in meeting cute girls. Turk gets caught up in his own guilt and also ruins his first date while he realizes he actually likes dogs and stops using them to help his buddies meet girls.

     According to the Orcabook.com website, the Orca Currents series is "A series of middle school fiction for reluctant readers." Karen Spafford-Fitz has crafted a book full of witty dialogue between middle school kids as well as some well captured conversations between Turk and his mom. The plot is well developed and moves along at a fast pace. This book has a fun feel to it, and I found myself rooting for Turk as he seems like a regular kids who occasionally gets himself into trouble.

     The challenge will be how to market this book to the target audience- "reluctant readers." The main character is a male, and most of the minor characters (except Carly) are girl-crazed boys. However, I am not sure that a boy would who falls into the "reluctant reader" category would find this book exciting or interesting to read as the humour is notably un-obnoxious. The interaction between Turk and Chuck is entertaining, but, if reluctant boys were to love this book, it would have to include more rudeness. Boys would fight over who would get to read this book if, for example, a dog chronically farted at inopportune times, barfed on someone's feet, chased someone else's prize winning cat into a pool or tree, became tangled up in a senior's dress, or tried to mate with someone's leg.

     What about the girls who reluctant readers? As the book is, I think girls are more likely to like it, but, in this case, there should be more romance. The book is part romance novel as it involves boys trying to meet girls. As well, it includes dogs, an animal about which many girls at one time or another tend to enjoy reading stories. Girls would like the girl character, Carly, and Spafford-Fitz has done a great job creating a very likable character in Carly. However the book does not focus enough on her if it was to be read by reluctant reader girls. I would also expect that there would be more details on the boys' efforts to attract the attention of the girls and on creating an atmosphere of 'crushes' which is certainly not a focus of this book.

     Dog Walker is ultimately not about boy-girl relationships, but it is about Turk's realizing that he is not "allergic to his own sweat" and can actually do hard work as well as about his learning to talk to girls (without the aid of a shady dog-walking business).

Recommended with reservations.

John Dryden is a teacher-librarian who does not walk dogs in Duncan, BC, but who has experienced all of the traits of other people's rude dogs (listed above).

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.