Reading/Interest Level: Intermediate, Young Adult
Author: Sam Angus
Publisher: Square Fish
It is 1917 and the Great War is raging. Thirteen-year-old Stanley is left wondering what his future may hold. His father’s livelihood depends on the purebred dogs he has raised for years, and one night Stanley lets out his most prized. After she delivers a batch of crossbreeds, Stanley and his father become more at odds than ever. Stanley decides to leave home and join the army. He enlists and begins serving in Britain, only to eventually to find himself assigned to an experimental War Dog School in France. Now his goal of finding his brother Tom is within arms reach and he has found a job with purpose, commitment, and a connection he never imagined possible.
This is a beautiful story of a young boy’s fight to make the best of a life filled with turmoil and unsettling odds. Stanley’s fight for his fellow soldiers, his broken family, and the life-saving messenger dogs he trains with precision and love are remarkable. Angus brings this journey to life through her masterful use of simile, metaphor, and imagery. She keeps the reader engaged with an array of twists and turns and allows young and old alike to learn about the heartache of war, the unique bond between a soldier and a dog, and our desperate need for human connection. This would be a perfect pick for middle school teachers to use for required reading in their history and language arts classes.