A puppy is taken from his mother, purchased as a birthday gift for a cruel boy from his equally cruel parents. Abandoned at a dump, wrapped in linoleum tile, he is rescued, and chosen by another boy – a boy named Patrick. But Oz, as Patrick names the pup, is afraid of humans. He’s never met a kind one, and he doesn’t want to be hurt again. Patrick, ever patient, sits with Oz, talks to Oz, and waits for Oz to warm up to him. But Patrick’s life is about to undergo upheaval, too: his parents are splitting up… is it because his father is allergic to dogs? Patrick swears that he will make the painful sacrifice and send Oz back to the shelter if it means having his father back home.
The Dog Who Lost His Bark is a sensitive, sometimes painful, ultimately soothing story about trust, betrayal, and family. Eoin Colfer creates wonderfully memorable characters, both canine and human, and PJ Lynch’s black and white illustrations give them form. Oz’s playful innocence is so harshly broken by his first family that it becomes painful; Lynch’s illustrations give us a sweet dog that just wants to be loved, but is terrified of opening himself up to that possibility ever again. It’s all there, right on the cover image. Illustrations introducing us to Patrick, the boy who adopts Oz, give us a sensitive boy who wants to reach his pup.
The Dog Who Lost His Bark reads like classic kidlit. I’ll be recommending this one along with my EB White favorites and Kate DiCamillo’s books, for sure. Beautifully written, wonderfully illustrated, and an absolute must for your reading lists next year, educators. I’m putting this one on my Newbery watch list.
The Candlewick website offers a free, downloadable discussion guide.