The International Writers Magazine:Book Review
Dog for Life by L.S. Matthews
Paperback 208 pages (January 5, 2006)
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
Rowena Betts review
wouldnt write a book which didnt challenge the reader
with questions which maybe arent easily answered. I have
to write books which at least have the potential to effect changes
. . ."
Dog for Life certainly does what L.S. Matthews wanted it to do.
Although a childs book, it deals with such issues as animal testing
and discrimination against gypsies. But in spite of this, it is not
easy to forget that the book has been written for a young audience.
The issues in which are dealt with prove to an adult audience that children
are no longer sheltered from the bad things that happen in the world,
but instead are encouraged to face them and to help change them. Animal
testing, for example, is a particularly delicate subject matter, but
in the book it is told to a child by a child, therefore a layer of innocence
and naivete covers the topic. This does not in any way shield the facts
from the reader, it hints quite clearly that it should not happen and
gives legitimate facts to back up John freeing the animals from their
A Dog for Life is the story about a boy named John and his dog,
Mouse. Both John and his brother Tom have the ability to speak to Mouse,
although their amazing talent must be kept secret, because people refuse
to believe them. So when Tom gets sick and Mouse must be sent away,
it is up to John to take their beloved dog to the other side of the
country to their only known relative so Mouse wont be put into
a pound. Their secret mission leads the pair into all sorts of exciting
adventures, as well of the suspense of not knowing how the story will
Although a childrens book, A Dog for Life does not lack
anything to prevent an adult from enjoying it. It contains many twists
and turns and at times, it is uncertain how the story will end. It is
an extremely enjoyable book, and because of its constantly changing
story lines, it is difficult to put down! But, because of its original
aim to be for children, for an adult, it is an easy and enjoyable read.
The tale is told in first person and in the vernacular of a nine-year-old,
which helps establish a real connection between the reader and John.
The language is quite colloquial, with backtracking and explanations
throughout. This creates a friendly equality with the reader, not belittling
them in any way, but encouraging them through real language and friendly
tones. Because of the subjects discussed in the book, I would recommend
this for children no younger than nine. It is a good read for those
who are becoming confident with reading longer stories and want something
a little more interesting than the average adventure.
L.S. Matthews is the winner of the Fidler Award for her last and first
book, Fish. A Dog for Life is a great follow up to her
first book, and is sure to become a firm favourite with adults and children
alike. This wonderful tale could be easily read again and again and
will be well worn on the bookshelf.
© Rowena Betts Feb 2006
Rowena is a Creative Arts major at the University
of Portsmouth and has just appeared in Guys and Dolls at the New Theatre
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