HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Red Dog
Author: Bill Wallace
Illustrator: Richard Cowdrey
Publisher: Aladdin, republished in 2002
ISBN-13: 978-0823406500 Hardcover:
ISBN-10: 0823406504 Hardcover:
ISBN-13: 978-0689853944 Paperback
ISBN-10: 0689853947 Paperback
Related website: https://simonsays.com (publisher)
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 – 12 and up
Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Wallace, Bill. Red Dog (published in 1987 by Holiday House, 18 E. 53rd St., New York City, NY 10022; republished in 2002 by Aladdin Paperbacks, an imprint of Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing Division. 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York City, NY 10020). It is the 1860’s, and twelve-year-old Adam lives with his stepfather Sam, mother Louise, little sister Laurie, and big red pup named Ruff in a lonely cabin near Jenny Creek in the Whiskey Basin of the rugged, often dangerous, northwestern Wyoming Territory mountains. Adam’s real father had died back in Tennessee, and his older sister Jenny had died in Wyoming after their mother remarried Sam and took the family to his homestead out west. At first, Adam is angry at having been forced to move from Tennessee and is veryunpleasant to his stepfather, who insists that he behave responsibly.
One summer day, Sam must leave for a weeklong trip to Cheyenne to file a deed for his land and puts Adam in charge of the family. While he is gone, three cutthroat gold prospectors who want to stake a gold claim on the land come crashing into the cabin and hold the family hostage at gunpoint. Adam manages to escape at night, but the men let the red pup loose, and the one thing that dog does best is track Adam. Will the pup lead the men to the boy? And if he does, can Adam still save his family? This is a very fast-paced, exciting story. There are a few common euphemisms (darn, danged, “bust your butt”) and some references to using “a long, ugly string of words,” although no actual bad language is found. Also, mention is made a few times to smoking tobacco.
However, the biggest complaint which I saw is that the book is just too violent for children. Yes, some violence does occur, and as a result I would probably recommend the book more for ages twelve and up rather than younger or rather sensitive readers. However, it is set in a time and place when such things were fairly common. The fact is that there were and are evil people who are bent on hurting others. Yet, none of the violence is gratuitous, nor are the descriptions overly gory, and it all works out for the best in the end. From a positive standpoint, the story contains examples of parents disciplining an unruly child (though not necessarily in a politically correct way), important life lessons learned by Adam, and instances of praying to the Lord. I enjoyed it. It was a Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award Nominee in 1992.