Thursday, October 3, 2013

Review: Soldier Dog


Title: Soldier Dog
Author: Sam Angus
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: April 16, 2013
Source: I received an ARC in exchange for a honest review


With his older brother gone to fight in the Great War, and his father prone to sudden rages, 14-year-old Stanley devotes himself to taking care of the family’s greyhound and puppies. Until the morning Stanley wakes to find the puppies gone.

Determined to find his brother, Stanley runs away to join an increasingly desperate army. Assigned to the experimental War Dog School, Stanley is given a problematic Great Dane named Bones to train. Against all odds, the pair excels, and Stanley is sent to France.

But in Soldier Dog by Sam Angus, the war in France is larger and more brutal than Stanley ever imagined. How can one young boy survive and find his brother with only a dog to help?


I was very apprehensive to start this one for the same reasons that I've never seen War Horse. I'm a huge animal lover and I hate thinking of them being hurt even a little bit, let alone going through the horrors of war. But, I gathered up my courage and read this one anyway. And it was every bit as sad as I expected, but also more interesting than I expected.

This is one of those books you need to read beside a box of tissues. I kept a personal "cry counter" on this one and I believe my final tally was 5 bouts of tears. Two of which were full out sobbing. Just so you can't say I didn't warn you.

A book that makes you cry that much must be doing something right (although I'm sure I'd cry in a poorly written book on the same subject). I found Soldier Dog to be well written and engaging. I cared deeply about Stanley and even more about Bones and Soldier.

The thing I didn't expect was to be interested in the war aspect as well. I found this book to be very well researched and really informative. I'm about as far from a war buff as you can be, but I actually enjoyed learning about how dogs were used as messengers in WWI. So hooray for learning something!

The only other I'd question on this one is it's suitability for younger readers. The grade range on this one is 4-7. I'm not sure is a 10-year-old could handle this book. It destroyed me and I turn 25 this week! However, on that note, this book might be good for boys interested in war to get them reading. But there were images in this one that are terribly haunting and awful and I bawled as I read them. The use of gas was absolutely terrifying and devastating, so this one is not for more sensitive young readers.

Soldier Dog is an extremely moving look at the use of canine soldiers in WWI, as well as the journey of a brave young man who leaves his safe life in England to face the unknown horrors of war. This one will have you bawling you eyes out and feeling so thankful that your pets won't have to go through the terrible situations war dogs did.

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