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One Dog and His Boy Paperback – 1 Mar 2012
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''One Dog and His Boy is an adventure to rival that other canine odyssey, The Hundred and One Dalmatians'' --The Times
Destined to become a classic --The Daily Mail
About the Author
Eva Ibbotson was born in Vienna, but when the Nazis came to power her family fled to England and she was sent to boarding school. She became a writer while bringing up her four children. Her sensational novel, Journey to the River Sea won the Nestlé Gold Award and she has consistently been shortlisted for many other awards and prizes. Her bestselling novels for both adults and children have been published around the world.
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It's the story of Hal, who has everything a boy could wish for, but no one to really love him. When his parents rent him a dog for his birthday, they think that he'll tire of having to look after it, so won't mind having to give it back. They couldn't have been more wrong! Hal and Fleck form a really strong bond which leads to a brilliant adventure (involving many more dogs).
If you are looking for something to read aloud to children of various ages, this book is perfect. If you like stories by Michael Morpurgo, Jeremy Strong and Roddy Doyle, this might be for you. I'd recommend you buy the beautifully illustrated hardback, it's one of these books to read again and again.
Eva was clearly an author who was determined not to get stuck in a rut, and was always prepared to take on new challenges and new styles.
Even here, in what is (sadly) the last book before she died, she takes a new direction. I wouldn't quite call it "Eva Ibbotson meets Jacqueline Wilson", but there is something of that about it. Thankfully, she steers clear of the more direct manipulation of the reader which often characterises Jacqueline Wilson, but still manages to produce a book that more directly engages with one's emotions than her previous works.
In some ways, the book follows some very standard paths, with classic "wish fulfilment" elements which you will find in everything from Roald Dahl to Harry Potter. But there are also enough unexpected twists and turns to keep the story unpredictable and engaging to the end.
And, as always, the book is beautifully written, as befits an author who loved the joy of language and the craft of storytelling to the very end.
Hal was a boy with rich and snobbish parents, who was given everything on the market for his birthday, with his mother sending out to Hamleys for all the latests gizmos and gadgets, but Hal never got what he really wanted for his birthday - a dog. A dog which, his mother believed, would dirty her pristine show house! However, when his father returned late from his latest business trip on Hal's birthday, forgetting to pick up a present from duty free, he promised Hal a dog, one from Easy Pets, a dog hire company. Hal's father thought it would be a passing fad, and Hal would be glad to return it after the end of the 'hire'. However, as soon as Hal set his eyes on Fleck, a mongrel who should never of been at Easy Pets, Hal was in love, as was Fleck. After a fun filled few days, Hals mother tricked Hal into visiting the dentist with the au pair while she returned Fleck to Easy Pets and Hal was inconsolable on his return. The following story tells of the bond between Fleck and Hal, but also of the dogs in Room A at Easy Pets.
It was a beautiful story, a story which could be shared at bed time between parent and child. Ibbotson writes at a level suitable for children of all ages to understand and tells of the true and everlasting bond between a dog and its owner, each looking out for the other. It also tells of how children can be overloaded with expensive toys and gadgets and not appreciate them - money can not buy a child's love! However, the love of a pet can be just as rewarding.
There is also the story of Hal's determination to keep Fleck, a journey across country to his grandparents house, who are not rich, but understand the love of an animal. The journey was a great adventure and I loved to read about it and loved the ending to the book.
Another big part of this book for me are the pencil sketch drawings by Sharon Rentta. They are full of life and each sketch shows the dog's unique character. In the copy I was sent was extra sketches at the back of the book where Rentta had submitted extra sketches and the publishers decided to include all of them!
I would recommend this as a great gift idea for children aged 7+, as a book to share at bedtime and for older children to read themselves.
It would be perfect for a child anywhere from 7 onwards to read themselves and would make great bedtime-story reading for younger children as well, though I suspect it might make for rather late bedtimes - I couldn't wait to see what happended next and there may well be weak-willed parents who will share their child's desire to read on a bit further, and then a bit further again.
The dog and his boy are lovable and plausible characters as are the friends human and canine they meet on their adventures. There is of course a happy ending.
I was sad to read just after getting to know this book that Eve Ibbotson is no longer with us but she has left a wealth of fine books for children that I suspect myself and a few other adult readers of this one may well be seeking out.
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children that I have given it to.