Gr. 4-6. Novels for children rarely follow characters from birth to the threshold of the grave, but then again, most protagonists do not measure their life spans in dog years. In this "autobiography" of a dog named Squirrel, Newbery Honor Book author Martin imagines how a stray separated from its family in puppyhood finds its way in the world. Martin adjusts to her character's limited viewpoint by combining a retrospective structure--allowing an older, wiser Squirrel to shed light on things not within a puppy's purview--with graceful dog's-eye descriptions of nature, as when a moon waxes "from the tiny curl of a cat's claw to a half-closed eye." Less effective are the repetitive plot structure and the concluding focus on Squirrel's twilight years, lending the novel an elegiac tone that may not resonate with its target audience. Readers who love animal survival stories in the tradition of Anna Sewell's Black Beauty (1877) and Sheila Burnford's The Incredible Journey (1961) will embrace this for its convincing animal perspective, though some sad events may shock the softer hearted. ((Reviewed December 1, 2005)) Copyright 2005 Booklist Reviews.Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews
Martin's (A Corner of the Universe ) winsome novel, written from a canine's point of view, is sure to melt the hearts of animal lovers, as she traces the dog days of a stray named Squirrel from birth to old age. The pooch spends his first few months safe and warm inside a shed. She first ventures out into the larger, more threatening world after her mother disappears and brother Bone decides it is time to explore the woods. From then on, life becomes a battle of survival for Squirrel, scrounging for food, avoiding busy streets and remaining wary of humans who may or may not be friendly. During her life, Squirrel gets separated from her brother, finds and loses a canine companion named Moon, and stumbles upon a handful of temporary owners who do not always prove to be loyal. Besides offering a glimpse of how strays learn to fend for themselves, this saga of a lonely dog delivers a subtle but strong message to potential dog owners, conveying the negative effects of neglecting, ditching or abusing a pet. After following Squirrel's harrowing encounters with freezing temperatures, dangerous enemies and near starvation, readers will utter a sigh of relief when she finds a human who needs Squirrel as much as Squirrel needs her. Ages 9-12. (Oct.) [Page 65]. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.Review by School Library Journal Reviews
Gr 4-6 -From the comfort of her new home, a dog provides a retrospective narrative of her 10 years as mostly a stray. Squirrel's voice is consistently gentle, even as she describes her surroundings and life-changing events. She describes the circumstances of her birth, and conveys sadness and grief upon the disappearance of her mother, separation from her brother, and fear when fighting mean, starving dogs. Perhaps it is her sweet nature that makes her complacent about life on the run, but it also makes her story less compelling. Avi's The Good Dog (S & S, 2001) and Sarah Clark Jordan's The BossQueen, Little BigBark and the Sentinel Pup (Tricycle, 2004) also have canine narrators but convey many rich, satisfying details about what it smells and feels like to be a dog-details that are missing here. Nevertheless, libraries with dog lovers and Martin fans will want to give this book a home.-Laura Scott, Farmington Community Library, MI [Page 142]. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Squirrel, a stray puppy, tells her life story, from her nurturing mother and brother to making her own way in the world, facing busy highways, changing seasons, and humans both gentle and brutal.Review by Publisher Summary 2
Newbery Honoree Ann Martin once again proves her versatility with an incredible stylistic departure in this "autobiography" of a stray dog.Squirrel and her brother Bone begin their lives in a toolshed behind someone's summer house. Their mother nurtures them and teaches them the many skills they will need to survive as stray dogs. But when their mother is taken from them suddenly and too soon, the puppies are forced to make their own way in the world, facing humans both gentle and brutal, busy highways, other animals, and the changing seasons. When Bone and Squirrel become separated, Squirrel must fend for herself, and in the process, makes two friends who in very different ways define her fate.Review by Publisher Summary 3
Squirrel and her brother Bone begin their lives in a toolshed behind someone's summer house. Their mother nurtures them and teaches them the many skills they will need to survive as stray dogs. But when their mother is taken from them suddenly and too soon, the puppies are forced to make their own way in the world, facing humans both gentle and brutal, busy highways, other animals, and the changing seasons. When Bone and Squirrel become separated, Squirrel must fend for herself, and in the process, makes two friends who in very different ways define her fate.