A different dog by Paul Jennings
Allen and Unwin, 2017 ISBN 9781760296469
(Age: 6+) Highly recommended. Grief, Animals, Dogs, Survival, Courage. Jennings introduces his readers to a boy who can no longer speak. He and his mother lives near a town where she does fruit work to keep them going. The boy had a dog, Deefer, but he had been killed by the next door neighbour after the animal killed some ducks on his farm. Since then the boy has been unable to talk.
He tries to enter a competition nearby to win some money to help his mother, but in climbing the mountain to the start of the race, he sees a van roll over the cliff and into the ravine. He goes after it, finding that the driver has been killed, but has left his dog. He and the dog make their way back home, through the dense, dark forest and over a ramshackle railway bridge, the boy puzzled that the dog can no longer walk, until he realises that this is the dog from the circus, trained to do tricks. He learns not to use some commands, like freeze and sit and decides to make the dog unlearn these.
Twelve months later the boy and his mother receive a visitor who insists that the dog is a circus dog and wants to have him back.
This poignant story of a lonely boy and his mother will resonate with younger readers. The boy who has no voice lives in straightened circumstances, the children at his school bully him, and now that he cannot speak, their torment is merciless. Meeting a dog that cannot walk, brings all of his courage to the surface as he carries the dog through the forest and back to his mother.
The illustrations by Geoff Kelly add to the atmospheric tale of courage overcoming adversity.