Reading/Interest Level: Young Adult
Author: Robert Weintraub
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
World War II began in the Pacific as a result of Japan’s imperialist desire to conquer its surrounding nations. In 1942, after sweeping through Siam and Malaya, Japanese forces unexpectedly overtook Britain-occupied Singapore. It was at this point that the stories of Frank Williams, a radarman in Britain’s Royal Air Force, and Judy, a loyal and talented pointer, began to collide. Having both been on ships that were attacked by the Japanese, they found themselves stranded for a time until finding a way to journey across the Indonesian island of Sumatra to the city of Padang. Unfortunately for them, Padang had just been taken captive by the Japanese, and both Frank and Judy, as well as hundreds of others, were taken as prisoners of war. Though the suffering they endured was extreme, one wonderful thing came from these arrangements—Frank and Judy met each other and became the very best of friends. In the wartime years to follow, this bond and the trials they faced together intensified as they moved about from one POW camp to another and struggled to survive and keep each other alive in miraculous ways.
The story of Frank and Judy, as presented so well in this book, is fascinating, enlightening, touching, and remarkable. True to its title, the language is appropriate for young readers to understand, and the book includes several helpful sidebars explaining aspects of World War II in simple terms. Prospective readers should be aware that this is not just the story of a man and a dog; in fact, Frank and Judy don’t even meet up until halfway through the book! Rather, the book can be deemed half World War II narrative and half Frank-Judy narrative, intertwined in a brilliant way that takes the reader through the history of the war in the Pacific as it affected that area. In that aspect, it is quite educational instead of simply being interesting. Overall, No Better Friend is an excellently written, heartwarming story that would greatly appeal to a wide audience, and most definitely to history fans and dog-lovers.
*Contains mild violence associated with war.