HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: A Dog Called Kitty
Author: Bill Wallace
Publisher: Aladdin, republished in 1992
ISBN-13: 978-0812407570 (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0812407571 (Hardcover)
ISBN-13: 978-0671770815 (Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0671770810 (Paperback)
Language level: 2
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 8-9 and up
Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Wallace, Bill. A Dog Called Kitty (published in 1980 by Holiday House Inc., 18 E. 53rd St., New York City, NY 10022; republished in 1984 by Archway Paperbacks, a trademark of Pocket Books, a division of Simon and Schuster Inc., 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York City, NY 10020). Two years ago Ricky, now going into fifth grade, along with his father, mother, and younger brother Chuckie, moved from their apartment house in St. Louis, MO, to a 160-acre farm near Chickasha, OK. He likes to play football, and his best friend at school is Brad McNeil. One summer day a stray puppy comes to the farm. But Ricky is afraid of it; in fact, he is scared of all dogs because he was attacked by a rabid dog when he was just a toddler and had to get painful rabies shots. However, Ricky feels sorry for the new puppy because it comes to eat when his mom calls “here kitty” to feed the cats, but they run it off, so it never gets any food. As a result of this, the dog gets the name of Kitty.
Ricky then musters all his courage, begins to feed the pup, and gradually overcomes his fear of dogs. One freezing evening the following winter, while his father is out of town, Ricky and Kitty are out looking for a heifer with a newborn calf when they are savagely attacked by a group of wild dogs who are stalking the two cows. What will happen to them? Will they even survive? And if so, will Ricky have to have rabies shots again? Before I read this book, I looked at some reviews, and the main complaints about it were too much violence, cruelty, and sadness at the ending, so I was prepared not to like the book, but I actually did like it. Especially sensitive children might want to avoid it, but I think that most middle school age kids would enjoy it. As to violence, yes, some fighting occurs. A bully picks on Ricky, and he stands up for himself. Cruelty? Local farmers are baiting coyotes and wild dogs to protect their livestock. Animal rights activists may not like it, and even Ricky says that it is awful, but something has to be done for the farmers to make a living.
Many children’s dog stories traditionally have sad endings, such as Old Yeller and Where the Red Fern Grows, but there is usually a ray of hope. I must admit that the conclusion here seemed a little abrupt and maybe somewhat forced. Yet, there is still that ray of hope. Aside from a few common euphemisms and some childish slang (danged, darn, peed), the only language issue about which parents might be concerned is that when their truck gets stuck in the field, Ricky says, “I never dreamed Mama knew the words she let out then. Daddy said things like that when he was special mad at one of the cows or when the tractor wouldn’t start….When she saw me listening, she slapped a hand over her mouth” and said, “I ever hear you repeating any of those words, I’ll blister your behind.” However, no actual words of cursing or profanity are found. The book has won the Texas Bluebonnet, the Oklahoma Sequoyah, and the Nebraska Golden Sower Awards.