________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 25. . . .March 4th, 2011.


The Incredible Journey.

Sheila Burnford.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada (1960/2010).
151 pp., pbk., $6.99.
ISBN 978-1-4431-0018-2.

Subject Headings:
Dogs-Juvenile fiction.
Cats-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 3-7 / Ages 8-12.

Review by Tara Stieglitz.

**** /4



The bear halted, then reared up to full height for attack, red eyes glinting savagely, neck upstretched and head weaving from side to side in a menacing, snakelike way. The cat uttered another banshee scream and stepped forward with a stiff-legged, sideways movement, his squinting terrible eyes fixed on his enormous adversary. Something like fear or indecision crept into the bearís eyes as the cat advanced.

First published in 1961, The Incredible Journey has endured as a classic of Canadian childrenís literature for the past fifty years. The novel is about three pets who are separated from their beloved family and embark on a 300-mile journey across the wilderness of Ontario to get home. Luath, a young Labrador, Bodger, an elderly bull terrier, and the Siamese cat, Tao, face predators, armed farmers, flooding rivers and increasingly cold weather along their trip in a story that is gently told, yet exciting and engaging.

     Unlike many stories featuring animal protagonists, the trio of pets in The Incredible Journey are not overly personified or given blatantly human characteristics or motives. The animals do not speak in the book, and the reader is not privy to their thoughts. Rather, the thorough characterization of the three animals is elegantly accomplished solely through descriptions of their actions and behaviour. Their behaviour demonstrates that Tao, the cat, is fiercely devoted to the old bull terrier, Bodger, and that Luath, the younger dog, is more aloof but not uncaring about his companions. The characterization of the animals is believable and realistic, and the reader is given enough information that it is easy to care deeply about the three characters. The setting of Ontarioís beautiful, but sometimes harsh, countryside is also well evoked in the novel with descriptions that are clear without detracting from the action of the novel.

     The Incredible Journey is certainly worthy of its reputation as a Canadian classic. The story remains timeless despite the novelís age. Modern children would certainly be able to relate to the adventures and plights of the three pets. The Incredible Journey is a highly recommended purchase for public and school libraries.


Tara Stieglitz is a librarian in Edmonton, AB, and a recent graduate of the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia.

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

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