Children love to read and what child does not like to read dog stories? There are none, not in the third, fourth, fifth grades, and even beyond. My nine year grandaughter liked “A Dog’s Life” by Ann M. Martin so well she brought it to me last summer while visiting from Florida. I liked it so well I am sharing it here and will be reading it again before she comes back this summer and takes it away. She made sure I knew it was hers and she wanted it back:
The story unfolds as a well-seasoned mutt reminesces about her past. She is now owned by a lonely old woman who adores her but it has not always been that way. In the beginning they, her brother and her mother included, lived near a fine house with enough vacant sheds and other hideouts that they called it home for a few seasons. As she grows life gets harder. First she loses Bone, her brother, and then eventually she loses her mother.
In time this stray is truly alone. We follow along as she is into one scrape after another, often barely escaping with her life. The story is so real and so life-like we often seem to want to scratch for fleas as this canine heroine does. After reading this book we will never ‘hate’ strays again or fail to understand their plight.
It is obvious that the author is a dog lover and what’s more an excellent writer. That’s not unusual, there’s lots of those around so what is it that makes this an ideal book to be read aloud in a classroom? As a bonus, this author is an excellent story teller. She knows how to take a grimy little fact and turn it into an event that the reader will long remember.
To get the interest of the classroom when this story is being aloud by either the teacher or the students – depending on the age of the students and their reading and reading comprehension ability – each chapter should be read and discussed and mulled over. It should not be read in a hurry. Each child will have their favorite sentences and will want to discuss them further. They should be allowed this privilege.
Possibly the more expressive readers will read and those not so endowed will make better talkers. All should get involved in this story and all will since this is a moving story in which all can relate. This story ends by Addie telling of her own happiness as she snuggles up to her benefactor:
“I burrow into her side and listen to her heartbeat. With my eyes closed,I might be in a straw-filled wheelbarrow again, nestled against Mother, listening to the first heartbeat I knew. I open my eyes and tilt my head back to look into Susan’s lined face. She smiles at me, and we sit pressed into each other, two old ladies.”
And as most writers will tell you it was while reading these fabulous children’s stories that made them want to write their own stories. And I for one did just that. Since in the late forties there was no television to watch after school, I entertained myself with a sheet of paper and a pencil writing stories. My biggest problem was getting my mother to take the time to listen to me read my stories.