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Check It Out

Courier Article by Carol Banks
Sunday, August 27, 2006

Dog Books Really Know How to Wag a Tale

The Intermediate Young Hoosier Book Award Committee knows all about the "Dog Days of Summer." Of the 58 nominated books on our reading list this summer, an amazing number have been about dogs. Here are just a few.

It's two paws up for Angus and Sadie by Cynthia Voigt (HarperCollins), the story of two winsome border collie-mix puppies who find a loving home with "Mister and Missus," a Maine farm couple. Voigt tells of the pups' adventures, learning their new surroundings, their first encounters with the farm animals, and their training to be herders.

Angus is the more no-nonsense, we-have-work-to-do of the pair, always ready to help Mister. He's a quick study.

Sadie is more fun-loving and has a time figuring out what is expected of her, but she is good help with Missus in the garden and at the Farm Stand. Even so, Sadie is a bit skittish, and the barn cats delight in scaring the bejeebers out of her.

When Sadie finally stands her ground with a strange black-and-white striped "kitty," she learns another valuable lesson, but comes away with a perfumed coating of eau de Skunk.

As the pups grow and their herding duties increase, Angus proves to be a champ. But it is Sadie who becomes the real hero during a snowstorm. It is a gentle and heartwarming story.

Small in format but big in story is Thunder From the Sea by Joan Hiatt Harlow (Margaret K. McElderry Book), set in Newfoundland in 1929. The craggy cliffs and storm-tossed seas foretell the story of 13-year-old orphan Tom Campbell, a boy with a simple wish -- a home, preferably a home with a dog. In "Thunder" he finds both.

Fisherman Enoch Murray chooses the Mission Orphanage-raised Tom to come live with him and his wife, Fiona, on Back o' the Moon Island, where Tom will help Enoch on his fishing boat. Tom's first wish is granted.

Now for Wish 2. During a particularly stormy day at sea, Tom thinks he hears a bark. He find a dog, swimming in the sea and struggling against the choppy waters. It is a huge Newfoundland dog, and it takes all the men on the fishing vessel to rescue the water-soaked dog. They see no boat around. Where did he come from? But Tom doesn't care. He has a dog -- a dog he calls Thunder. Thunder From the Sea.

Life is good for Tom. A loving home, a dog that idolizes him a nothing could ever change this. Or could it?

Fans of Old Yeller and Where the Red Fern Grows and who like to read dog stories with plenty of Kleenex nearby, will want to check out Hachiko Waits by Leslea Newman (Henry Holt and Co.). Based on a true story from Japan, Hachiko, a fabulous Akita, was the beloved pet of Professor Ueno of Tokyo.

Each day the two would walk to the Shibuya Station, where the professor would board the train that would take him to his university, then Hachiko would walk back home, returning to the station just before 3 each afternoon to await the professor's return.

This daily routine was noted by other train passengers and the station- master, who all commented on the dog's devotion to his master.

A little boy, Yasuo Takahasi, who rode the train each day to school, was especially charmed by "Hachi," and the feeling was returned by the loving dog.

One day, however, the professor did not return at the appropriate time. Faithful Hachi waited for his friend. He waited as each train arrived and departed. Still, his friend did not come.

Sadly, the professor had died at work that day. For 10 years -- 10 years -- Hachi continued his daily wait for his master. No one could persuade Hachi to leave "his post."

Little Yasuo, now grown, as well as the stationmaster watched over Hachi, providing him with food and shelter. Hachi became such a fixture at the station that upon his passing in 1935, a statue of the Akita was erected at Shibuya Station, honoring his devotion.

According to Newman, yearly celebrations are held at the spot where the dog waited so faithfully for his master.

Carol Banks is supervisor of the READ Center, Central Library's children's Department. Contact her at (812) 428-8222. The opinions expressed in this column are personal and do not reflect policies or official recommendations of the library.