Category: Junior Fiction
Title: Just a Dog
Author: Michael Gerard Bauer
Pages: 144 pp
Australian RRP: $14.99
ISBN: 978 1 86291 887 0
Format: 198 x 128 mm
Just a Dog is a warm and entertaining story about Mr Mosely, a bitsa dog, who becomes part of the Ingram family after Uncle Gavin’s pure bred Dalmatian gives birth to a litter of mixed-up puppies and changes everything for the family along the way. The adventures begin when young Corey Ingram chooses the family’s puppy and takes the reader along the life journey of Mr Mosely and his relationship with each family member. The story touches some ‘up’ moments, as well as some ‘down’ moments in the life of the family, including the relationships between extended family, the loss of Mr Ingram’s job and the stress that places on him and the rest of the family, the birth of Corey’s sisters, and the everyday things that happen in this family. The events in this tale will ring true with the reader, suggesting that no matter who your family is, everyone experiences moments of happiness, uncertainty, joy, love, misunderstanding, trust and loyalty, as well as big helpings of humour. It also shows clearly how members of the family react to certain situations and how they learn to deal with the events they are faced with. It also shows whether these ways are actually the most useful or effective ways. It allows the reader an opportunity to think of alternative ways they might choose. Mr Mosely’s role within the family grows in importance and becomes the glue that endeavours to hold this family together.
The author uses simple language and tells the story with a clear voice through the eyes of young Corey Ingram, the eldest child of the Ingram family. Corey’s voice and tone throughout the story is consistent and believable. There are many levels to this story and the author addresses a number of issues that could make great life discussion points between an adult and their child. Teachers’ Notes by Anita Jonsberg can be found here.
This book is listed as an Honour Book with the Children’s Book Council of Australia.
Michael Gerard Bauer – Author
Mr Bauer was born in Brisbane where he continues to reside. For many years he taught English and Economics at a number of schools in surrounding districts of Ipswich and Brisbane, until he retired from teaching in 2000 to become a full time author, after successfully publishing his first novel, The Running Man by Omnibus Books in 2004. It won the 2005 CBCA Book of the Year Award for Older Readers. His second book, in 2006, Don’t Call Me Ishmael!, was also short listed for the CBCA awards, and its sequel, Ishmael and the Return of the Dugongs, was released in 2007. In 2009, Dinosaur Knights, a time-slip adventure was published and shortly afterwards, his book, You Turkeys! was published for younger readers. Mr Bauer’s books are published both in Australia and overseas.
I bought this book when I attended the 2014 Brisbane Writers Festival. I took my Year 6 extension writing students to the festival to participate in Word Play. We attended sessions by authors, Morris Gleitzman, Jackie French, Andy Griffiths and Tristan Bancks.
I find it hard to refrain from spending money on books, be it in a bookstore, marketplace, or writers festival, and this occasion was no different. I bought several titles by the authors mentioned above, but Mr Bauer’s book was one of those books that beckoned to me. I made the rounds of the centre tables and bordered shelves of the festival’s bookstore, and kept coming back to this book. I hadn’t read any previous books by this author, however, I knew his name. I secretly think it was all about the haunting eyes of Mr Mosely. They stared out from the front cover and dared me not to take him home. Well, he obviously had me at first sight, because I could not resist him and, breaking the rule of, ‘never judge a book by it’s cover’, I picked up Just a Dog, added it to my growing pile of paperbacks , waited in a long line behind scores of students at the cashiers’ counter, and waited to make him mine.
I wasn’t disappointed. I suspected I would enjoy the book as I am not just a book lover, but a dog lover as well. I’m a bit of a sucker for chocolate brown eyes, especially sad ones, and I was proven right. I, like Corey, probably would have chosen Mr Mosely from the litter. I don’t think you pick dogs in a litter, I think they pick you, from what I can see, based on my own experience. And, this is definitely the same kind of thing when I go to the book stores; books choose me. Now as I think about it, Mr Mosely the book, just sat there and willed me to come and get it, just like the real Mr Mosely beckoned Corey to choose him. Weird, hey?
The book flowed well, was easy to digest and I’m sure most 10+ readers would find the level of language suitable for their reading range. The way the book was sectioned worked well for me and I found the author’s hints of what’s to come throughout each chapter enticed and urged me to keep turning the pages. This novel explored the complexities of life and family relationships, as well as relationships with pets. The author addressed a number of topics at different levels that left me thinking and wondering. Children would find this book difficult to put down and not keep thinking about things and I feel fairly confident that many would feel the need to discuss the events with other students or adults.
I also think this story and the way it is told could be used as a springboard into conversations about events happening in a readers own life; an inroad to students or children who perhaps are experiencing difficult times in their own family. This book would also be great for the child who has never owned a pet. It would give them real insight into the world of owning a pet and the sometimes craziness and joy this can bring. Some events are comical, touching, thought provoking, and joyful, however, there are some chapters that might leave the reader feeling a little sad or anxious, depending upon the personality of the reader.
I would definitely make sure of each student’s family and pet situation before encouraging them to read this book. If a student has recently lost a pet or is going through similar life events, you might decide to wait until they are in a different frame of mind. It would definitely pay to be sensitive to the emotions of the young reader. Some will breeze through the story and take it on face value, while others will need to debrief. Having said that, this book is a great read and will promote thinking.
RATING: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED