cover image Just a Dog

Just a Dog

Michael Gerard Bauer. Scholastic Press, $15.99 (144p) ISBN 978-0-545-37452-1

Despite the title and opening line ("The day my dad said that [Moe] was %E2%80%98just a dog,' my mum punched him"), it soon becomes clear that the enormous pet at the center of this tearjerker of a dog story, first published in Australia in 2010, is anything but "just a dog" to his family. The deep-felt emotion surrounding Dad's statement and Mum's reaction surfaces at the end of the novel, which is narrated by Moe's young owner, Corey, in neatly linked anecdotes. Moe's energy, affectionateness, and (it must be said) demise easily bring to mind John Grogan's Marley. There are well-crafted light moments, too: Corey's sister decorates Moe with markers, the dog shreds a stuffed Pink Panther that has a funny backstory, and Moe learns to fetch the family's newspaper (as well as those delivered to neighbors). Sobering entries describe the events leading to Moe's decline and death, as well as Corey's father's downward spiral after losing his job. Reading like a heartfelt eulogy, Bauer's (Don't Call Me Ishmael!) book will be particularly moving for anyone mourning the loss of a pet. Ages 8%E2%80%9312. (Dec.)