It’s Tween & Teen Tuesday when we review either a Juvenile (J) or Young Adult (YA) book.
Along Came a Dog
Meindert DeJong (Juvenile Fiction)
The little red hen was having a splendid day in the barnyard. Spring had finally arrived and the weather was warm, the sun was bright, and she had just laid her first egg of the season. Proudly, she sat atop the man’s shoulder as he cleaned the coop floor and spread out fresh hay. Life on the farm was splendid indeed…until the big black dog appeared. Suddenly, this fur-covered menace had disrupted her otherwise splendid day and that wouldn’t stand one bit. After all, it was a pack of dogs that had killed all of the red hens in her flock and she alone had survived. No, the big black dog had to go and it was up to the man to do it. But no matter how determined the man was to get rid of the dog, the dog was more determined to stay for he had decided that this farm was his and no distance was going to separate him from his newly found home.
This is the second book I’ve read by Meindert DeJong (the first being The Wheel on the School) and he again delights with a beautifully told story that reads almost like a fairytale. The actions and emotions exhibited by the animals are true to their nature so don’t expect camaraderie within the flock or gentle misunderstandings between the hen and the dog. DeJong gives us an accurate portrayal of farm life in all its splendor and savagery and readers will soon understand that life is hard and often unfair in the barnyard. Thankfully, DeJong is mindful of the age of his intended reader so he makes sure that bad is always followed by good and those possessing purity of heart and deed are eventually rewarded. Also, the story does seem to lag just a bit near the middle, so readers are encouraged to dutifully plow ahead as the ending will merit their effort and patience.
Along Came a Dog is a story of duty, purpose, loyalty, and an overwhelmingly desire to belong, and it serves as a wonderful example of the benefits of perseverance and the virtues of honor. It was both heartbreaking and heartwarming to see dog so steadfast in his mission to return to a place where he obviously wasn’t welcome. But, his rationale was quite simple: “He was back. Twice he’d been taken away, and twice now he’d come back. And if the man were to take him away thirty times, he’d come back thirty times. He wasn’t dim-witted—he knew he wasn’t wanted here. But every time he was taken away, he’d try to come back. It wasn’t a plan in the big dog’s mind. It was a need, a desperation to have a home. He was going to have a home! It was that simple.” On that fateful spring day, a friendship was formed and a home was discovered when a hen with broken feet and a dog with an unbroken spirit found each other. When you think about it, it turned out to be a rather splendid day after all.
* Book cover image attributed to www.amazon.com
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