CM February 16, 
1996. Vol. II, Number 18

image Mooch Forever

Gilles Gauthier. Illustrated by Pierre-Andre Derome.
Translated by Sarah Cummins.
Halifax: Formac Publishing, 1995. 60pp, paper. $5.95.
ISBN: 0-88780-308-3 (paper), 0-88780-309-1 (boards).

Subject Headings:

Grades 2 - 5 / Ages 7 - 10.
Review by A. Edwardsson

**1/2 /4


Nothing seems to interest me, ever since Mooch died. Nothing at all. School is a disaster. I wasn't that fond of school to begin with. Now I think it stinks. I don't want to have anything to do with anyone. I don't care if I flunk! I wish I could just give up the whole thing. And I wish Gary would just go away, him and his stupid little dog. DUMPLING! Is that name dorky enough for you? And the worst of it is, the name fits the dog perfectly. Gary's dad probably got him really cheap. I know that when you've just come out of prison you don't have a lot of money, but still, I think he might have tried a little harder. Ever since Mooch died, Gary is always asking me to go play at his house. It's no use. I don't feel like playing. And anyway, I can't stand his stupid Dumpling! I would rather think about Mooch.

image Gilles Gauthier has written a series of first novels starring Carl and his dog Mooch. His book Mooch and Me previously won Best Children's Book of the Year in Quebec. Mooch Forever was originally published in French in 1990 as Ma Babouche pour toujours.

In this story, Carl is grieving the loss of his aged dog, after she's put to sleep. He refuses to accept that Mooch was suffering, and his mother's reasoning falls on deaf ears:

"Carl, the vet explained it all to you. Mooch's heart gave out."
"Mooch's heart was better that any vet's heart! I'll never believe her heart gave out. She died because that ignorant vet poisoned her with his horrible medicine."

When his anger cools, Carl becomes apathetic, rejecting the overtures of his Mom (whom he usually calls Judy) and his friend Gary. He knows they're concerned, but he's too self-absorbed to try alleviating their fears:

Mom doesn't know what to do with me. I'm always sad and I've lost my appetite. I know that Mom is unhappy. Every so often she tries to talk to me, but I won't listen. I already know what she's going to say. Anyway, she can't give me the one and only thing I want -- my dog.

Carl is still talking about Mooch in the present tense when he realizes what's really bothering him. "I love Mooch as much as I love Mom. And as much as I loved Dad, when he was alive. But now I'm afraid. First Dad. Now Mooch. I'm afraid there is another name on the list. I don't want to be left all alone in the world. Without Mom." Children may relate to Carl's fear of abandonment.


Gary finally breaks through the barriers by generously offering his own dog to Carl. "He said that he had thought it over very carefully and he was certain I needed a dog more than he did . . . Two minutes earlier, I couldn't stand Dumpling, even though I'd never seen him up close. Now I wasn't so sure." Sensing Carl's indecision, Gary tells him to keep the pup overnight and then decide. He runs off before Carl responds, leaving Dumpling behind.

This is another example of Carl's self-absorbtion. Rather than returning the dog immediately, he keeps it overnight. Readers may wonder if Carl thinks dogs are possessions that can be given away. What about Gary's inner emotions? And don't Dumpling's feelings count? But having the dog overnight changes Carl's outlook on life:

Dumpling is quite the fellow! He's a real clown! First of all, Sir Dumpling will drink only milk. Judy and I found that out pretty quick...When it comes to food, he's no champion either. He has trouble eating the dry dog food we bought him. He practically needs a nutcracker before he can chew it.

(Readers may also wonder how they figured out the dog would only drink milk, and why they went out and bought dog food for Dumpling since he's just there on a one-day trial basis. Didn't they have leftover kibble from Mooch? Why didn't Gary leave food and a set of instructions for them? And don't changes in diet give dogs the runs?)

Fortunately, after spending time with Dumpling, Gary comes to the right conclusion:

Dogs are very faithful. Much more than Gary thinks. A dog isn't a toy that can belong to you one day and to someone else the next. Even if you have a good reason. Dumpling is already very attached to Gary . . . He belongs with Gary, the greatest friend I've ever had. Except for Mooch, of course.

Gary is grateful for the return of his pup. Carl says he would be willing to help train the dog and Gary [unbelievably] says "he would love to have the full benefit of my experience. He wants me to teach Dumpling everything I can." While trying to teach Dumpling a trick, the boys feed him two entire boxes of chocolate-chip cookies. Hmmm . . .

For her part, Judy helps Carl with "closure." She explains to her son that "life is a bit like a play . . . Some of the actors are on stage for a long time, others not so long. But every one had a part to play, and every part is an important one." Judy and Carl reminisce about the good old days, and plan a summer trip to the Island that includes Gary and Dumpling. Carl decides to write a "real" book about Mooch.

Though not all of the story makes sense, and Carl can be an unsympathetic protagonist, Gilles Gauthier deserves credit for tackling a sensitive topic that young readers can identify with.

The larger print, and format of the story are approachable, with only one or two sentences to a paragraph, and chapters approximately seven pages long. The many black-and-white illustrations are cartoony and not particularly appealing, but they are well placed, complementing the text. Mooch Forever is an acceptable purchase for schools or libraries in need of chapter books/first novels. With a reading level of 2.5, it might work for reluctant readers or for children dealing with loss of a loved one.


A. Edwardsson is in charge of the Children's Department at a branch of the Winnipeg Public Library. She has a Bachelor of Education degree and a Child Care Worker III certification, and is a member of the Manitoba branch of the Canadian Authors' Association.

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Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364

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