Thursday, January 16, 2014
A Dog Called Homeless, by Sarah Lean
Then, at school, comes a charity fundraiser that involves volunteering to remain silent for 24 hours. When her ex-friend and other classmates jeer that Cally couldn't possibly keep her mouth shut, she volunteers. She completes the challenge with ease, and then, when the principal announces that the volunteers may speak again -- Callie doesn't. She realizes that she sees no reason. No one listens to her, anyway.
In the new apartment, Callie makes friends with a boy in the other flat who is blind, nearly deaf, and may have cerebral palsy or a similar condition. Though she doesn't speak, and in any event can speak to Sam only by spelling into his hand, the two grow into close companions. What the story seems to be saying here is that it's willing, listening hearts that really forge communication, not merely, or necessarily, the ability to speak.
Cally continues to see her mother's ghostly image, and the very real dog, which, while connected to her mother, is also being looked after by a homeless man, Jed. While everyone around Cally's family comes to believe that the dog belongs with them, to the point of telling her father so, he angrily insists they cannot take care of a dog.
We know that in the end they will, and that Cally will speak again, too. It's the emotional journey that's prominent here. I found myself rooting for Cally to not speak again until she was good and ready, and in that way this book tapped into powerful childhood emotions for me -- always a sign that I'll find that book a winner. Lovely and heartwarming. Recommended for anyone who would like a realistic story with overtones of magical realism.