Review Blog

Aug 19 2018

The dog with seven names by Dianne Wolfer

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Random House, 2018. ISBN 9780143787457
(Age: 9-14) Highly recommended. Themes: World War 2 - Australia, Dog stories. Dianne Wolfer's "The Dog with seven names" is set against the backdrop of World War 2 in the Pilbara and Kimberley regions of Western Australia. Creatively told from a dog's perspective, we follow her journey, her different owners and experience her struggles and deprivations and her happiness and her quest to be reunited with her first owner Elsie.
Born the runt of the litter, this little Australian terrier dingo crossbreed, seems destined to die. Young Elsie saves the pup, nursing her back to health, dressing her up, even teaching her to dance. Her first name is Princess. Looming large in the background is 'a thing called war'. The radio's broadcast of the fall of Singapore, then the bombing of Darwin signals changes to the young dogs' life when Elsie is evacuated south and there's no room for her dog.
Herding the station's cattle across the plains to Port Hedland with stockman Dave proves challenging. Dog becomes the Flying Doctor's companion, enjoying flights into the countryside to help sick patients and settles in to life at Port Hedland Hospital. She is renamed Flynn by a very ill girl Beth as she provides comfort for her on a mercy flight to the hospital. Now a military garrison, Flynn finds her life in the hospital grounds both difficult and enjoyable. Chinese cook Lee Wah cares for her, feeding her scraps and names her Gengi-Golden-eyes. The impact of the Japanese bombing of Broome and the huge influx of patients to the hospital, sees the frightened dog providing comfort to an injured Dutch boy. Even Matron is happy for the dog's help. As the war continues, the little yellow dog never gives up hope that he'll be reunited with his first owner Elsie.
Dianne Wolfer's junior novel is imaginatively written and well researched, exploring the impact of World War 2 on the residents, soldiers, families and evacuees in the north of Western Australia. Her characters are realistically portrayed, as we experience the sights, smells, the seasonal changes and the harsh realities of life from the little dog's point of view. "The Dog with seven names" is an excellent class novel for Middle and Upper Primary students, providing opportunities to undertake historical research.
Rhyllis Bignell

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