Jessie’s world is crumbling around her; her dad’s business has gone bust and he now works away from the family most of the time; her cousin with whom she used to be best friends has joined her school and is now being horrid to her. When Gran suddenly buys a fluffy white puppy, Jessie finds some relief at last as she has been desperate for a dog for so long. But soon matters take a turn for the worse, when Gran becomes increasingly confused and agitated, and eventually ends up in the hospital, disorientated and muttering very strange things about puppies being shot. Can Jessie solve the puzzle of Gran’s past?
A short book that touches on many difficult themes could easily end up a bit of a shamble. But not Girl with White Dog; with a clear voice and flowing narrative, young Jessie takes readers on a journey that is both heart-wrenching and heartwarming. The sorrow of dementia, the heartache of family break-ups, the malice of bullying, the injustice of prejudice, the absurdity of racism and the deep scars left by war, it is all there, evident, honest. Yet because it is intertwined with some light-hearted stuff (the “butterflies” of first love, the roller coaster that is puppy-rearing), Girl with a White Dog is not a heavy-read, but it is an important read nonetheless. The sincere tone of a child coming to realise how complex. and sometimes disappointing, the world can be, makes it all the more powerful.
Girl with a White Dog is a compelling and candid début novel, yet accessible for young readers, which manages to be be both challenging and comforting.
Source: review copy from publisher