ARC (Advance Reading Copy). First published in Great Britain in 2012 by Macmillan. USA edition published April 2013 by Feiwel and Friends. (247 pp.) Includes Historical Note, Photo Gallery, Author’s Note and a Select Bibliography.
Prior to reading this book, I had no idea dogs were used as messengers during World War I. I knew they had used pigeons, but not dogs. The author based the book on a messenger dog called Airedale Jack. Jack worked for the British army in 1918. Despite getting shot several times and painfully crawling on three legs and with a broken jaw, he managed to get his message to his handler, and saved his battalion.
In “Solder Dog,” readers are introduced to 13 year-old Stanley. Stanley’s mother passed away, and he lived with his fierce and uncommunicative father. He loved dogs and missed his older brother Tom who was in the Army. After his father took his favorite puppy, Soldier, and drowned him, Stanley decided to run away and join the Army to find Tom. Despite being underage, he became a Dog Keeper in the British Dog Messenger Service. There he learned firsthand of the horrors of war while training, and falling in love with, the dogs he trained.
Through Stanley’s experiences, readers aged 9-13 learn of the experiences of Messenger Dogs and those who trained them, as well as what happened during several key World War I battles. “Soldier Dog” is a wonderful read, and will grab the attention of even the most reluctant of readers. Don’t forget your tissues.