Sunday, November 3, 2013

Dogs of War by Sheila Keenan & Nathan Fox

204 p. Graphix/ Scholastic Press, October, 2013. 9780545128889. (Review copy provided by the pubisher)

Three wars, three dogs, three soldier handlers. Three affecting stories of war and the devotion between the dogs and their handlers. First up is Boots. His owner lied about his age and enlisted in WWI with his dog, Boots to follow his adoptive father into the trenches as a rescue team whose mission was to find wounded soldiers and help evacuate them. He and Boots get lost in the confusion and end up in a trench near Christmas, when the famous truce happened.

The next story takes place in Greenland during WWII. Maine boy, Cooper is assigned a dog-sled team to get in line, in particular a dog called Loki. Cooper's ways of training clash with his officer's, but that officer chooses him to help rescue a downed pilot in the frozen terrain.

The final story features an African-American vet named Lanford, who lives in a trailer park and who keeps to himself because he suffers from flashbacks and sorrow for leaving his dog, Sheba behind. Henry, a young boy with a lively, new pup befriends the vet, who helps him train the dog.

The artwork is spectacular - gritty and atmospheric. The speech bubbles are easy to follow. There is a three-page author's note that provides a brief history of the use of dogs during wartime, followed by two and a half pages of further resources, which include books, dvds and web sites.

This compelling graphic novel will have broad appeal, from reluctant readers to military buffs to dog lovers. A welcome addition to the middle school collection.

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