by Helen Griffiths
Even though this is juvenile fiction, and has a rather somber subject matter, I found it an excellent read. The characters were totally believable, the plot had unexpected turns that put them in difficult situations, nothing is black-and-white, especially the moral issues. It\’s about dog fighting. This boy grows up in an unloving home with his single father, whose one passion is breeding bull terriers as fighting dogs. When the boy gets to choose a pup to raise as his own, for the first time he feels stirrings of love, but he doesn\’t understand it. He wants to be proud of his dog, but as it grows the pup doesn\’t measure up to his father\’s standards. So he\’s ashamed of his closest companion, but still loves it too, feeling torn and unhappy. Worse, he\’s told he must get rid of his dog if it can\’t do better after some training; as his father won\’t tolerate the presence of what he considers sub-par animals. It gets really interesting when another child enters the picture, a fellow student. The boy visits this other kid\’s house a few times, sees how other families live, and starts to realize that not everyone is as cold and scornful of emotions as his father. He also sees a way to keep the relationship with his dog without facing his father\’s scorn, but this puts a burden on the other kid. It all works out in the end, however not without some startling brutality.
Rating: 4/5 129 pages, 1978