War Dog

Martin Booth, Author, Joann Pendola, Illustrator Margaret K. McElderry Books $16 (144p) ISBN 978-0-689-81380-1
The heroine of this stimulating British import is orphaned, abandoned, requisitioned, and strafed at Dunkirk--and she endures it all for a biscuit and a pat on the head. Jet, a Labrador retriever, falls into police custody when her owner is arrested for his chronic poaching. Soon after, an army officer spies her and claims her for training as an infantry patrol dog. In war-torn France, Jet's keen senses save her platoon from ambush, although nothing can spare them the retreat from Dunkirk, where she is injured. Eventually Jet recovers and graduates to other duties, including locating survivors in bombed buildings and accompanying troops to Italy. A captivating subplot involves Fred, the poacher, who joins the army to look for Jet, hoping to get her back as she's traded from owner to owner and renamed Jess, Bess and D67. Some of the jolly 1940s British slang may stump the target audience, as in this admonition from Jet's handler as he slips her a biscuit: ""`Strictly against King's Regs,' Turpin whispered. `Don't let on or we won't cop half of it.'"" But the slang is never so obscure that it impedes comprehension of the fairly straightforward plot. No Lassie-like story of a cuddly puppy who saves the day, this sometimes harrowing account emphasizes the interdependence of man and animal in wartime. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
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