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The Boy Who Spoke Dog


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About the Author

Clay Morgan grew up a free-range child in Idaho, where summers had one rule: Be home by dark. After college, he became a Forest Service smokejumper, parachuting to fight wildfires in the western US and Alaska. He married his college sweetheart, astronaut Barbara Radding. Their sons, Adam and Ryan, helped Morgan write his middle-grade novel, The Boy Who Spoke Dog. He has also published several adult novels, including Aura and Santiago and the Drinking Party. Morgan has been awarded the NASA Public Service Medal, Idaho Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts, and was an Idaho Writer in Residence. He teaches creative writing at Boise State University.


Gr 5-8-After being cast overboard during a storm, a young cabin boy is washed ashore on an island inhabited by two packs of dogs. One group protects the sheep that were left behind by now-departed settlers, while the other, the wild fangos, hunts the herd. Soon after his arrival, Jack has a suspenseful life-and-death encounter with the fangos and is rescued by the sheep dogs. They lead him to the ruins of a farm, where he is able to find the necessities of survival. Lonely, he tries to reach out to the canines, but they keep their distance. Soon Moxie, a little Border collie, befriends the boy, and before long, the two form a bond. The events are related from alternating viewpoints. During Jack's scenes, the plot moves more quickly, while Moxie's chapters are more thoughtful, as she listens to her leader, a blind old English sheepdog who guides her to an understanding of the pack's history and the connection between humans and dogs. In many ways, this story is really Moxie's, as the themes of companionship and communication develop through her thought processes and her budding relationship with Jack. More than just an exciting adventure tale, this novel is an exploration of the hidden link between people and animals. Get out your Kleenex; the ending is no fairy-tale wrap-up.-James K. Irwin, Poplar Creek Main Library, Steamwood, IL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

A tender exploration of the bond between man and his best friend, Morgan's thoughtful adventure uses the relationship between human and animal to cast a warm glow on each. The narrative alternates between the point of view of Moxie, one of the dogs living on a remote island years after his master died in a house fire, and Jack, an orphan who is taken in by a crew of sailors only to be shipwrecked and deposited alone on Moxie's island. The old blind dog Sage has been telling of a messianic return of "the humans," and Jack's arrival on the beach is seen as a great blessing by most, but as an ominous portent to the suspicious Kelso. Morgan uses simple, clean prose to paint two separate pictures of two distinct perspectives on innocence-the kind that Jack has apparently just lost, having to face the world on his own once again, and the kind that Moxie is just discovering, rooted in the singular love that comes from the connection between man and dog. Many insights come from the canines' view of humanity ("Humans are complicated.... I was told that often humans think by barking in their minds. The inside of a human's mind must be a very noisy place," Sage tells Moxie). The pacing is swift, and the surprising and touching finale begs for a sequel. Ages 9-12. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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