Reviews /

The Way of Dog

Authored by Zara Fraillon
Illustrated by Sean Buckingham
Published by Chicken House

A dog is on a journey to find a real family: but this is a gritty tale of survival, where outcomes are unsure.

With the help of Manpup, Scruffity escapes from the horrendous puppy farm run by The GrowlMan but a traffic accident separates boy and dog, and Scrufitty is left to find his way, a way that includes a fox, a gang of much less than friendly dogs whose ‘eyes tell only of danger,’ to relearn friendship with humans. At his lowest ebb, Scruffity is chosen for a prisoner rehabilitation scheme – but will this bring him the family he seeks?

In the poems that tell the story, are some truly brilliant insights – into training and failing, into a dog’s psyche, into the predicaments Scuffity finds himself in. The dogs-eye view of the world is enriched for us by Zana Faillon’s clever bending of language – ‘schnuffle’ for the intense smelling-out of clues by a dog; how dawn gives ‘the Sun’s first lick on our heads’. This is wordplay of a high order, imaginative and enlightening. The artwork by Sean Buckingham matches Fraillon’s poems, so that dark grey page when Scruffity is at his lowest, the poem ‘The Way of Dog is No More’, really feels like we are all able to empathise with feeling:

almost

not really

here

anymore.

There are vivid moments of pain, loss and fear in this book but this shouldn’t prevent anyone from sharing it with a class with due sensitivity. While it is not a book to be presented without a thorough read by the adult, preparatory reading isn’t an issue: I revelled in its storylines, its language and the world-creation at the heart of how Scruffity copes with his experiences, sad and joyful, which is called The Way of Dog. It is a book to engage and delight upper KS2  and KS3 readers.