An unnamed boy sets out to compete in a fund raising race. He wants to win the prize money so his mother does not have to work in the orchards in freezing conditions. However on the way he witnesses a car accident and goes to provide assistance. The driver is killed but the dog in the passenger’s seat wearing earmuffs survives. The boy rescues the dog and tries to return to the road, but is unable to with the terrain as it is and the dog not behaving as he expects a normal dog to behave. He eventually makes it to the road where he and the dog are given a lift home. He has missed the race, but his mother has some exciting news for him. He does for her also, as previous to this day he was unable to speak in front of people. The dog becomes part of the family but this is threatened a year after the accident when a man appears claiming the dog is his. The boy and dog must convince the owner otherwise.
This is a clever, short story told by one of Australia’s best. At only 82 pages, and with black ink illustrations at the beginning of each chapter, it is not a long read. It does, however, have a lot of substance. Jennings has carefully worded the narrative to ensure not too much is given away. The reader is able to make the narrative their own while easily picturing the setting and characters. Imagery is strong, as is the warmth felt by the boy for his new dog and his mother’s well being.
Although this book appears to be intended for younger readers, older readers will also enjoy it. Since Jennings’ first publication in 1985, many have grown up with his appealingly quirky storytelling. Many of his first fans would be parents by now, and can share their favourite childhood author with A Different Dog.
I highly recommend this for primary and public libraries, and also for secondary libraries to support the emerging independent young teen reader. I have my eye on some Year Seven students I will be pointing this out to.
Many thanks to Allen and Unwin for supplying this book for review.