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The Good Dog
Atheneum/Richard
Jackson Books, 2001
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The Good Dog

In the Colorado mountain town of Steamboat Springs there must be three hundred dogs. Jack's malamute, McKinley, is the leader of them all. But Jack, being human, has no way of knowing that. For him, his family's dog is just a great pal. And protector.

Jack cannot know that Redburn, a “leash-licking” Irish setter, is McKinley's rival for the job of head dog. The boy cannot know, with the sudden hillside appearance of a she-wolf, Lupin, that not only McKinley's job—but his life—is in danger. Lupin's message: Dogs free yourselves from mankind. Come join us, we who need you to replenish our diminishing wolf pack in the wild.

But imagine how a good dog, loyal to his human pup, would hear Lupin's call!

McKinley's thrilling story tells itself, as first he and the boy together encounter Lupin in a canyon perfect for an old-time ambush, and later as they try to save her from both Redburn and a neighbor, a vicious man armed with a gun and a grudge. No one—not even McKinley—can foresee the end.

Behind the Book

Avi writes: I have a son, Jack. Jack has an Alaskan Malamute which he named McKinley. Our family has spent lots of time in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. In Steamboat there sometimes seems to be more dogs--wandering free--than there are people. There is a book, Thee Secret dLife of Dogs, which suggests that dogs, left to their own devices, have a life completely independent of the people they live with.

That's almost all you need to know about how and why The Good Dog came to be written. Except: Jack has gone off to college. McKinley decided to stay home, and is still the sweet dog he's always been.

P.S. McKinley can't really open doors.

Awards and Honors

The California Young Reader Medal, 2005-2006
Children's Crown Award, 2004
Rocky Mountain News, one of the best books of the year, 2001
Children's Choice nominee, Pennsylvania, 2003
Children's Choice nominee, Minnesota, 2006

Review

Publishers Weekly: 

“The action moves along at a crackling pace, reaching a crescendo in a dramatic moonlight confrontation. The dog’s-eye point of view allows for some creative touches, including insights into animal behavior and the vocabulary McKinley uses for various human objects (‘eating sticks’ for utensils, ‘a block of staring papers’ for books, ‘glow box’ for television). But most compelling of all is the transformation of McKinley’s happy-go-lucky character into a truly majestic leader.”

 

 
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