Tuesday, May 14, 2013

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Along Came a Dog by Meindert DeJong -- Middle Grades Classic/ Newberry Honor Book for 1959

It's spring on the farm at last. The hens have been stuck inside the chicken coop in the top of an old horse barn all winter. When the man comes to let them out, the little red hen is especially glad to see the man and get out in the barnyard. The man has made something of a pet of the last little red hen, so when he discovers her feet froze off in the winter, he decides to disobey his boss's orders to kill the hen. He tries hard to protect the hen from the attacks of the rooster and his harem of white hens and from the big black dog that has wandered onto the farm. The man does all he can to ensure the hen's safety, including taking away the dog, but she has a habit of getting out of where he's stuck her. The man can't figure out how the hen is staying safe. What he doesn't know is that the dog has appointed himself the little red hen's protector and though he has little food in the barnyard and must hide from the man, he sticks around to protect the little red hen. As spring turns to summer and threats increase, the little red hen tries to survive with the help of her dog. This story is sort of the anti-Charlotte's Web. The animals are not given human characteristics, or even names. They behave as animals are supposed to in their natural environment which causes a lot of violence. For this reason, I would not recommend the story to sensitive children. This story is best for older readers who read below grade level. Though the main characters don't have names or talk in human speech, I cared for them anyway. I wondered what would happen to the hen and the dog but not enough to want to continually read this book in one sitting. I think adults will appreciate the well-written prose and the heartwarming ending, but I'm not certain kids will enjoy this story. I liked it but it's not one of my favorites. All the animal violence really turned me off even though I know "survival of the fittest" rules the natural world. This book really makes me feel better about eating chicken...

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