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Monday, January 10, 2011

Dog Lost, written by Ingrid Lee. Scholastic, 2008. $8.99 ages 8 and up

"Of course people saw her. One or two
even phoned the local animal shelter. With
her white patches, she was an easy target.
But there weren't many who spotted her
more than once. Cash had a routine to
avoid detection. It was to have no routine."

This is one of those stories that I might not have found the time to read, despite its very appealing cover. Because I am on the jury for the Canadian Childrens' Book Centre reading junior fiction this year, I did read it and I am very glad that I did. It was a quick read for me, due to its target audience but mostly for the compelling strength of the story itself. When reading fiction of any kind, I am first drawn to the characters, then the setting and plot. While Ingrid Lee does a commendable job with us a community that is palpable and easy to imagine and a plot that concerns the treatment of people and animals, it is the characters that stand out on every page. No matter that they are primary or secondary, each has an important role to play as the story emerges and moves forward.

We are most concerned with Mackenzie and Cash. They meet when Mack's father wins the puppy in a game of chance. They find in each other a kindred spirit...loyal, caring, and full of love. When Mack's father gets angry with Cash, accusing her of being vicious and mean, as are all other pit bulls, he takes her away from Mack and dumps her in an nearby open field. Neither knows how close they really are and both are lost without the other. But, they must move forward.

In alternating chapters we meet the secondary characters, learn about Cash and what is happening with her as she learns to fend for herself , and watching Mack as he mourns her loss and longs to find her again. Along the way we come to learn about the people of their community. Some are upstanding and worthy. Others are not. They all have a part to play in the final outcome of the story.

The writing is very eloquent, the characters well-drawn and the story awash with events that connect one person to the other throughout this thoughtful, memorable book. With the drama of verbal and physical abuse, the pain of loss, the proposed plan to ban or euthanize all pit bulls in the city, and Cash's bravery and tenacity in preventing disaster, readers have much to wonder at. I love the exemplar writing in telling this tale of a boy, his dog and the great love they have for each other. There is hope, communal strength and humanity, and a feeling that all will be well for Mack and Cash as they journey together along life's path.

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