________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 18 . . . . May 10, 2002

cover Berta: A Remarkable Dog.

Celia Barker Lottridge. Illustrated by Elsa Myotte.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books/Douglas & McIntyre, 2002.
99 pp., pbk., & cl., $7.95 (pbk.), $14.95 (cl.).
ISBN 0-88899-469-9 (pbk.), ISBN 0-88899-461-3 (cl.).

Grades 1-4 / Ages 6-9.

Review by Gillian Noonan.

*** /4


Berta closed her eyes and Marjory smiled. This was a dog who always knew exactly what she wanted and she almost always got it without making a fuss. Marjory was the only person who noticed. Even her parents, who had known Berta since puppyhood, only said things like, "Thank goodness Berta is such a quiet dog. No trouble at all."

When Rosalind had gone home Marjory gave Berta a hug and a pat. "Someday you'll show people how clever you are, won't you?" she said.

And Berta did. She was, after all, a very remarkable dog.

Celia Barker Lottridge's Berta: A Remarkable Dog is the story of a dog who knows her own mind. Berta is a dachshund belonging to Marjory Miller and her family. She is a lovable dog who has not distinguished herself at anything, but Marjory believes, with the optimism of a nine-year-old, that one day this will all change. In the meantime, it is spring and new animals are arriving at the Miller's place. Mr. Miller enjoys being able to have some chickens, a pig and a cow -- a hobby that is allowed in their small town. Berta's chance to distinguish herself comes with the arrival of a lamb whose mother has shunned it. Berta takes this opportunity to be a mother to the lamb and helps look after it until the lamb can fend for itself. Everyone is amazed at what a good surrogate mother Berta is for the lamb -- a feat that is truly remarkable for a short dog who has never previously had the opportunity to be a mother.

     This story has many things going for it. The story's simplicity makes it a pleasant read. The characters, especially Berta and Marjory, are well drawn and realistic. The reader never feels that anything in the story is contrived. And for this reviewer, one of the most noteworthy things about the book is its true Canadian setting. The book begins in March. In many books, March is a time of flowers, green grass, more flowers, and outdoor temperatures that do not require a coat. March in Berta: A Remarkable Dog is not like that. In one of the most apt comments on March weather, Mrs. Miller says, "I know that Nature needs this wretched month for some reason, but why does it have to last such a long time?" March is described as a "a bothersome month neither winter nor spring with a yard that was patchy with snow. A jacket is needed because you never can tell with March." How true and how wonderfully Canadian.

     This is a delightful book which young readers should enjoy. Animal lovers will especially appreciate the realistic portrayal of small animal care. A good choice as an early novel.


Gillian Martin Noonan is a teacher living in Old Perlican, NF.

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

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364