HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be
Author: Farley Mowat
Illustrator: Paul Galdone
Publisher: Bantam Books, republished in 1984
ISBN-13: 978-0613065481 Hardcover
ISBN-10: 0613065484 Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-0553279283 Paperback
ISBN-10: 0553279289 Paperback
Related website: http://www.randomhouse.com/teens (publisher)
Language level: 3
(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 13 and up
Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Mowat, Farley. The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be (published by Little Brown and Company, a division of The Curtis Publishing Company; republished in 2004 by Dell Laurel Leaf Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House Inc., New York City, NY). It is 1929, and eight year old Farley Mowat moves with his father and mother from the verdant depths of southern Ontario to the arid and dust-shrouded prairies of Saskatoon in Saskatchewan, Canada, so that Mr. Mowat can take a new job as Saskatoon’s chief librarian. Shortly after arriving, Mrs. Mowat purchases, for four cents from a boy trying to sell ducks for a dime, a nondescript, bedraggled pup. Farley called him “Mutt” and wrote, “I suspect that at some early moment of his existence he concluded there was no future in being a dog. And so, with the tenacity which marked his every act, he set himself to become something else.”
The book chronicles the adventures of Mutt with Farley, his family, their friends, and a host of others, as they hunt ducks, chase cattle, deal with cats, battle other dogs, climb ladders, learn to sail, take vacations, catch creatures, make pets out of owls (the ones Mowat writes about in Owls in the Family), mess with skunks, and eventually return to Ontario. Can you imagine why one day Mutt would turn up with fur colored black and blue instead of black and white? These stories are hilariously funny. Unfortunately, the “h” word occurs a few times, and the “d” word occurs rather frequently, along with some other interjections like “For God’s sake, By God, Sweet Jesu, and Mother of God.”
There are also occasional references to drinking whiskey, beer, and rum. If it weren’t for these, the book would be suitable for anyone, but as it is, I would recommend it only for those 13 and up. The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be, which splendidly tells the entertaining story of the author’s boyhood on the Canadian prairies, is sometimes called Farely Mowat’s best loved book. As I said previously, aside from the language, it is truly amusing. SPOILER ALERT: I won’t go into any detail, but I will say that there seems to be an unwritten rule that any story about a dog and his boy has to have a sad ending. However, all dog lovers will find that Mutt is always full of surprises.