Tuesday, September 9, 2008


I've had this book on my shelves for over a year, but I just wasn't sure that I wanted to read a dog story - and especially not one where I was afraid that the dog might die (I'm more than a bit like the kid in Gordon Korman's No More Dead Dogs, I guess). We had to put our very elderly and much loved dog to sleep this summer and reading Marley and Me for my book club last year already made me a sobbing mess. I really didn't want another Old Yeller experience.

But Amanda's recent post finally convinced me to pick up Shiloh when I didn't feel like reading anything else in my "to read" stack. I've noticed that good kids' or YA books really help me get out of a reading slump.

Anyway, I enjoyed Shiloh, in a quiet way. I thought that Phyllis Reynolds Naylor really captured many of the joys of having a dog, as well as a thoughtful 11 year old's perspective on some weighty moral questions. I liked how the story unfolded, the ending was entirely satisfying, and I saw lots of great possibilities for discussion (if I could ever convince my own 11 year old to read it. But at least he's reading another Gordon Korman book recommended by his teacher right now).

But somehow the book just didn't transport me or totally engage me like my favorite Newbery winners (or some children's books in general) have. I didn't have any problems setting it down at night, it didn't make me cry (spoiler alert - highlight to read: no dogs died, thankfully!) or laugh out loud, and I thought the book was perceptive but not incredibly insightful.

Maybe my standards are just really, really high. I think some of the other books I've read for this project have blown them sky high, actually. Anyway, I would recommend Shiloh, especially to 9-12 year olds, and I am glad to have read it, but I'm not going to push it towards random friends and family members insisting that they read this incredible work that will change the way they feel about kids' books or dogs or life in West Virginia.

Here's one my favorite passages about dogs from Shiloh, though, and one that struck me as very true (especially since I'm still missing my dog):
We stand out in the meadow flying the kite, and I watch the blue-and-yellow-and-green tail whipping around in the breeze, and I'm thinking about Shiloh's tail, the way it wags. You get a dog on your mind, it seems to fill up the whole space. Everything you do reminds you of that dog (p. 92).


Amanda (the librarian) said...

Just wanted to say I love how you put the spoiler in the post - what's the coding to do that?

Great review. This book did not blow me away either, but I think it could generate some good parent/child or classroom discussion (or provide an essay topic for older kids!).

Sandy D. said...

All you do is select the text you want "invisible until highlighted" and change the color to match the background (there's a font button up above the text box). I just made it white on white.