Review Blog

Jul 27 2012

Caesar, the war dog by Stephen Dando-Collins

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Random House, 2012. ISBN 978 1742756325.
(Ages: 10+) Animals in war. Spurred on by the story of Sarbi, the labrador explosive detection dog that went missing in Afghanistan in 2008, Collins has written a parallel fiction novel for middle school students which runs alongside the tale of Sarbi, filling in what might have happened to the animal during his 14 months absence.
The story makes interesting reading and will entice animal lovers to continue to the end, and possibly enthuse them to reach for the true story of Sarbi (Saving Private Sarbi, by Sandra Lee) or follow another tale of his imagined 14 months absence in Michael Morpurgo's tale entitled, Shadow. Each of the three tales gives a different perspective on the dog's adventures, two in fiction form and one as a non fiction account.
Caesar, the war dog, puts the animal in the hands of Corporal Ben Fulton, recently widowed and looking after his two children, Josh and Maddie, with the help of his mother who has moved into their house. Because Ben trains and uses explosives detection dogs, he is away much of the year in Afghanistan, talking to his family through Skype. Collins builds a neat view of a family surviving through war, when the father must be absent for much of the time his children are growing up. The dog is the second dog Ben has trained the first having been retired, and Josh is very resentful.
The loss of Caesar after an attack by the Taliban, is momentous not only for Ben and his family, but also for the unit in which Ben works, and the story shows what happened to Caesar during the lost months.
A fascinating account of these amazing dogs and their trainers, the story of Caesar will open a world unknown to many students, and give a background to the war in which many Australian troops, including dogs, are fighting.
Fran Knight

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