Thursday, July 28, 2011
July Book Pick -- A Dog's Way Home by Bobbie Pyron
Abby, 11, and her sheltie, Tam, are Dog Agility champions. After another contest win in Virginia, her family is in a serious accident on the way home to small-town North Carolina. Abby ends up in the hospital, and Tam's cage, which was in the back of the truck, flies out and lands in a stream. By the time Tam escapes the cage, he's many miles from the accident scene. Abby, released from the hospital, is determined to find Tam again, and Tam is every bit as single-minded about getting home to "his girl," although he has 400 miles to go. The chapters alternate between Abby, in first person, and Tam, in third.
As I said, I'm not a dog lover. But I found the sheer loyalty of Tam powerful, and, humbling -- there's really no other word. Yet Tam is an animal, and during his months-long odyssey, through the companionship of a small coyote, he learns to live wild. He forgets his name. He meets people and animals he both can and can't trust. He ends up in a shelter and is almost adopted. Somehow, though, he always remembers himself and resumes his journey, whether it's because his potential new owner names him "Sam" and that rings a bell, or because he's driven off, assumed, in his emaciated state, to be rabid. Reading, I had the distinct feeling that dogs are created for loyalty, and I found that wonderful.
Abby, too, never gives up hope that Tam will return. Of course, everyone in her life tries to help her face that her dog is gone, but she will not give in to such thinking. It's a great compliment to the writing that Tam's story, with its inherent adventure component, doesn't take over the book. Abby's chapters are absorbing, too. Besides efforts to locate Tam, there's an unexpected move to Nashville when her dad's band gets its shot at a recording contract, and a surprise friendship with the weird girl in her new school, who turns out to be the daughter of Nashville's hottest new country star, and whose brother's mapping expertise helps push the search for Tam to a new level. In other words, Abby doesn't waste away pining for her dog, which adds weight and respect to the "never give up" message.
Because some kids will not want to read a story in which the dog dies, a recommendation of a book like this almost requires a spoiler: The dog doesn't die; the pair IS reunited. And the dog doesn't just fight to return to a girl who passively waits; both girl and dog are instrumental in finding each other.
This is a just plain good read. Highly recommended.