________________ CM . . . . Volume VII Number 19 . . . . May 25, 2001

cover Life Without Mooch. (First Novel Series).

Gilles Gauthier. Illustrated by Pierre-Andre Derome. Translated by Sarah Cummins.
Halifax, NS: Formac, 2000.
63 pp., pbk. & cl. $5.95 (pbk.), $14.95 (cl.).
ISBN 0-88780-524-8 (pbk.), ISBN 0-88780-525-6 (cl.).

Grades 3 - 5 / Ages 8 - 10.

Review by Gillian Richardson.

*** /4


My time was almost up, when Dumpling suddenly dashed up. He had pulled out something from under the sofa and was holding it in his mouth. It was a big grey woollen sock. I recognized it right away.

It was one of Jack's socks.

I snatched Dumpling up and ran to my room. My heart was beating wildly. I jerked the sock out of the startled dog's mouth and slipped it into my desk drawer.

Just then, Gary came in.

"Your time's up," he crowed. "You lose!"

I must have changed colour, because Gary said quickly, "What's wrong, Carl? You're all pale."

This is a further sequel to previous books in Formac's "First Novel" series about Carl and his dog Mooch. Now Mooch has died, and Carl wants to write the dog's life story to keep her memory alive. However, he's puzzled when his mom doesn't seem to remember Mooch quite the way Carl describes her, as a brave, larger-than-life hero. Carl worries his mom is also forgetting his deceased dad, judging by the frequent visits from neighbour Jack, his son Gary and their dog Dumpling, who Carl dislikes. When Dumpling discovers one of Jack's socks under the couch, Carl makes the decision to confront his mom with his fears. He learns that getting on with life after a loss doesn't mean you'll forget what came before. At last, he can honestly admit loveable Mooch was not perfect.

      Using first person and present tense, the author allows strong engagement with the credible main character. The style is conversational, with a good deal of introspection as Carl confides in the reader. The plot is centred on the important role of communication in a family adjusting to a double emotional loss. But this serious topic is handled with gentle humor, thanks in part to the antics of Dumpling and the lighthearted sketches by illustrator Pierre-Andre Derome. The book is not particularly action-oriented, but there is a some buildup of suspense and emotion as Carl sorts out his feelings about Jack. The outcome is not a surprise but leaves the reader with a positive outlook on life's inevitable ups and downs.

      This slim, pocket-sized translation offers ten short chapters with large print, a variety of sentence lengths with age-appropriate vocabulary. The dialogue is natural and the viewpoint consistent.


BC's Gillian Richardson is a former teacher-librarian and a published children's writer of fiction and nonfiction.

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ISSN 1201-9364