Bookmonger: Every dog has its day with this batch of books

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDFebruary 20, 2014 

In the wake of the Westminster Dog Show, let's take a look at books about dogs.

Port Townsend children's book author Patrick Jennings has dealt in dogs before. Previous titles include "Invasion of the Dognappers," and "Faith and the Electric Dogs." There are a lot of kids, however, who may want dogs but whose circumstances prevent it. With that in mind, Jennings hit on a new approach.

In his 2010 book, "Guinea Dog," Jennings introduced a fifth-grade hero, Rufus, whose dad hated dogs. But when Rufus's mom brought home a guinea pig as a consolation pet, the little critter had the unmistakable personality of a pooch - it barked, it growled, and it played fetch. Rufus named it Fido, and their adventures began.

Now Rufus and Fido are back in "Guinea Dog 2." This middle grade reader focuses on a mystery.

It also presents scenarios that offer coping responses to complicated realities such as bullying, materialism, economic disparity and an inadequate educational system. The lessons, however, are totally disguised as wacky adventure.

Once a teacher and librarian, now a full-time author, Jennings knows how to spin a tale that can stimulate imaginations, engage empathy, and entertain. If I had one word of advice concerning this book, it would be: "fetch!"

Kenmore author Kirby Larson has written about dogs before, too. "Two Bobbies" told the real-life story of a dog and a cat who stuck together through the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. "Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & a Miracle" was about a wild Iraqi dog who bonded with an American Marine.

Larson's newest book, "Duke," focuses on another dog and another war. Although it is fiction, the story is based on a real program during World War II where Americans loaned their dogs to the military to work as mine sniffers, sentries or patrol dogs.

Fifth-grader Hobie Hanson's dad is off fighting in the war. All across the country, people are being urged to do their part to help in the war effort, so Hobie reluctantly donates his beloved German shepherd, Duke, to Dogs for Defense.

This book details what life was like for kids on the home front during World War II - rationing, Victory Gardens, service flags hanging in the window and radios broadcasting kids' programs and alarming news reports and propaganda.

"Duke" braids together themes of sacrifice, loyalty, prejudice, and courage. It is a powerful and thought-provoking read.

Finally, Camano Island dog trainer Dianna M. Young and Anacortes writer Robert H. Mottram have teamed up to write "Think Like Your Dog." This insightful guide is packed with information and instructive anecdotes about the way dogs perceive situations and why they react the way they do. It gives advice on how to select a compatible dog, how to train it and treat it, and how to correct problem behaviors (both human and canine) before they become ingrained.

Sensible, smart and easy to read, this book is a good choice for all dog owners.

RECOMMENDED READING

"Guinea Dog 2" by Patrick Jennings

"Duke" by Kirby Larson

"Think Like Your Dog" by Dianna M. Young and Robert H. Mottram

The Bookmonger is Barbara Lloyd McMichael, who writes this weekly column focusing on the books, authors and publishers of the Pacific Northwest. Contact her at bkmonger@nwlink.com.

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