“Shiloh” by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Image result for shiloh by phyllis reynolds naylorThe Plot In Five Sentences Or Less:  Marty Preston is an 11 year old who lives in the hill country of  West Virginia.  While out exploring the countryside, he encounters a beagle who follows him home.  Marty immediately takes to the animal and names it Shiloh.  He is soon disappointed when he learns that Shiloh belongs to Judd Travers, a neighbor who abuses his animals.  Marty’s struggle over the ownership of Shiloh forces him to face questions about right and wrong, loyalty, and friendship.

My Take: Shiloh won the Newberry Medal in 1992 and the quality of Naylor’s writing certainly justifies this award. As I was reading the novel, I found myself wishing that I had read this book years earlier in my library career.  The story of a boy and his dog is a well worn theme in juvenile literature, but Naylor’s handling of the material never seems stale or cliche.  As readers we immediately appreciate the relationship between Marty and Shiloh and we know that it must endure.  Our hearts are invested.  Naylor deserves credit for rounding out the character of Judd Travers, a man who has himself experienced abuse.  I would recommend this book to anyone looking for the feel of a classic story.

One Interesting Note About The Author:  According to her biography on her website, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor was making ‘books’ as far back as the 4th and 5th grade.  She would write on scratch paper, draw pictures, and then staple it all together.

 

Duke by Kirby Larson

ImageThe Plot In Five Sentences or Less:  Hobie Hanson is a 5th grader in Seattle, Washington during World War II.  His father is away fighting the Germans, so Hobie spends most of his time with his friends and his German Shepherd Duke.  Life is not easy without his dad around, and only becomes harder when Mitch Mitchell, the school bully, sets his eyes on him and challenges him to give up Duke for the Dogs for Defense Program.  Much to Mitch’s surprise, Hobie rises to the challenge and soon Duke is part of the war effort and on his way to the Pacific.  Hobbie finds that he now must adjust to life both without his dad and his dog.

My Take:  I found this to be a very straight forward book about a boy’s experience and sacrifice on the home front during World War II.  My one criticism would be that Larson could have risked introducing more strangeness into the story.  There was a lot of baseball and paper routes, what one might consider stock 1950’s Americana.  Still, for those looking for a good read about the connection between and boy and his dog, this is a good pick.

One Interesting Note About the Author:  According to her website, Kirby was born at Fort Lawton Army Hospital in Seattle, Washington. She cost $5.