by Meindert DeJong
I thought perhaps I had read this book as a kid, and it did become more and more familiar the further I went. It\’s a story of a little stray dog, at first loved by two little kids, but frequently mistreated beaten by their mother (a strict housewife) and then lost during a storm. Wandering between houses until frightened by bigger dogs it ends up half-starving in the countryside. Due to rough treatment when it was very young, the dog is timid and in particular, terrified of brooms (used as punishment) so it avoids people. Happens to find safety from a pack of dogs under a farm woman\’s wagon, so the dog is travelling with her when an accident occurs, and everyone thinks he is her dog. While the woman is in the hospital he\’s taken to the dog pound, where although the surroundings and noise are terrifying, for the first time the little dog starts to respond to kindness from the pound man. But there are always brooms around, and the dog\’s phobia causes him to flee and hide again. He finally gets adopted by a retired ship captain, who looses him (once again, because of a broom). Then an incident with bank robbers get published in the newspapers, and the dog happened to be there, and the original children who had him as a little puppy see the pictures. They also see that the captain is offering a reward for his return. The kids don\’t care about their lost puppy anymore, they want new bicycles so go looking for the puppy in hopes of the reward money. Eventually it\’s another woman in the neighborhood who saw the dog scavenging around her back porch earlier in the story, who coaches the children on how to catch the frightened dog (but they are inept at following her directions), and helps the captain lure him home again. The dog gets there of his own accord, the captain finally recognizes his broom phobia, banishes brooms from his house, and now the little dog has a place to belong, without fear.
Yeah, it sounds rather convoluted and the parts at the end where all the different people who had seen or helped the dog came together to get him found and back to his new home, was a bit too convenient. But it is a really tender story showing things from the dog\’s perspective, how easily a fear can get instilled in a young animal and affect its life for a long time, while people don\’t realize the reasons behind its behavior.
I think this author often tended to write books about down-trodden or misunderstood animals; the other one I\’ve read by him is about a stray dog that starts hanging out around a chicken coop- I really like that one. And others have titles such as: Billy and the Unhappy Bull, The Little Stray Dog and The Cat That Walked a Week (to find its way home?) This one, Hurry Home, Candy, was a Newbery Honor book.
Rating: 3/5 244 pages, 1953
I love the book also