The Dog Who Lost His Bark

Candlewick. Sept. 2019. 144p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781536204421.
Gr 2-4–Early traumas—being sold by an abusive man and then adopted and abandoned by a cruel family—have taught Dog to be wary of humans. To Dog, to bark is to risk punishment, starvation, and abandonment. When Patrick, a young boy heading toward impending parental separation, adopts Dog and names him Oz, he promises to do whatever it takes to help Oz find his bark again. Through the power of music and love, Oz does indeed find his voice. But can Oz do the same for his beloved Patrick when the boy learns the truth about his dad’s absence? Alternating between dog and boy perspectives and always written in third person, this heartwarming story unfolds in short vignettes augmented by soft pencil illustrations. Oz’s voice is easily distinguished by the use of all capitals to designate important people, actions, and things, such as the “LOUD MAN” and “OUTSIDE.” Although this writing device is overused, it serves to communicate Oz’s thoughts and feelings. Patrick’s parents’ separation is revealed gradually, allowing readers to empathize with his reaction when he learns the truth. The authentic portrayal of parents as flawed, yet loving, rings true. Frequent illustrations, ranging from spot art to full-page spreads, create a realistic, modern, yet nostalgic setting using shading and precise linework. Despite Oz’s traumatic puppy years, the ending is appropriately happy for the target age range.
VERDICT A cozy chapter book to read aloud to animal lovers, this story will find a place in most public and school libraries

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