________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 2 . . . . September 17, 2004

cover Dogstar.

Beverley Wood and Chris Wood.
Vancouver, BC: Polestar/Raincoast Books, 1997/2004.
309 pp., pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 1-55192-638-5.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Christy Goerzen.

*** /4


Despite the false fronts, Juneau's buildings looked older and more weather-beaten than Jeff had imagined they would in a state capital. The few cars on the street were old, too. Like really old! They were like classic autos that people brought out for parades back in Halifax. Except that Juneau's car collectors didn't seem to take very good care of their cars. Most of these look pretty beaten up.

And now that he was thinking about it, the other people he passed on the sidewalk were dressed oddly, too. Almost every man he saw wore some kind of hat old-fashioned fedoras or those peaked tweed caps like English Cockneys were supposed to wear. Most of the girls he saw wore skirts or dresses. He hadn't seen one yet in jeans or a T-shirt. And all the colours seemed just a little dull. Juneau sure doesn't go in for Day-Glo Spandex. Jeff managed a private smile.

Still, his uneasy feeling was growing.

One of the wonders of time travel fantasy is that it is a genre in which both realistic fiction and fantasy intertwine. Thirteen year-old Jeff Beacon has been taken on an Alaskan cruise by his well-meaning parents to help him heal from the death of his beloved dog, Buddy. During a stop in Juneau, Jeff follows a Buddy look-alike who takes him back in time more than sixty years to the Alaskan frontier. The dog and time travel device, Patsy Ann, was a real-life Bull Terrier who, although deaf, could "hear" ships' whistles and would greet all new arrivals to Juneau in the 1930s. The plot twists and turns quicker than a roller coaster as Jeff, led by Patsy Ann, helps the ship's leader, Captain Harper, solve a mystery involving lost treasure and sunken ships.

     Time travel can help child protagonists to more fully understand their lives when they return to their own time and back into the context of their own existences, they often understand the passing of time and the notion of having to leave people and things behind forever. When Jeff returns to his modern-day existence, he finds that he's finally reached the final stage of grieving: acceptance. He sprinkles Buddy's ashes and says, "Spirit never dies, Buddy, remember that and I'll be seein' you." The close of the novel is satisfying and touching, without being overly sentimental.

     DogStar's plot moves along swiftly, with nice touches of humour and a great spirit of adventure. Jeff's growth throughout the novel is realistic; however, some of the other characterizations suffer. Other characters, such as Captain Harper, Jeff's new friend Rose, and Jeff's parents, seem more like character types than fully fleshed-out people: the gruff captain with a heart of gold, the kind but slightly oblivious suburban parents, and the sassy young girl. Nevertheless, DogStar packs an emotional punch and is a great look at one boy's grief and his journey out of it.

     This well-written novel is sure to be a favourite of dog lovers and fans of sea stories.


Christy Goerzen is a Master of Arts in Children's Literature candidate at the University of British Columbia and Communications Coordinator for the Vancouver International Children's Festival.


To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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