Review Detail

Kids Fiction 74
The Comfort of Canine Companionship
Overall rating
 
3.5
Plot
 
3.0
Characters
 
3.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
4.0
This 1979 title is a Swedish classic that reminded me a bit of Shel Silverstein's 1964 The Giving Tree. A man lives alone and suffers from loneliness as well as abuse from the few people he does see. He desperately wants a friend, and even puts up signs advertising his wish for companionship. No one answers, even though he sits on his front stoop for days waiting. Eventually, a dog comes to sit with him. Encouraged, the man gives the dog an increasing number of treats, and he returns each day to sit with the man, leaving every evening. Eventually, the dog comes inside, eating the man's dinner and sleeping in his bed. The man is so happy to have a friend that he doesn't see this as an inconvenience. The dog also protects the man from mean dogs and people, and the two continue to spend time together, sitting outside even when it is cold. Come spring, a young girl joins them, and the man is jealous when the dog snuggles up to her. Dejected, he roams the woods for seven days alone, but when he comes back, he sees that the girl and the dog are missing him, so he knows that he now has two good friends.
Good Points
The illustrations are soft and have a European feel to them, and the expressions on the faces of the people and the dog are rather delightful. There's just enough text for a comfortable read aloud or for an emerging reader to pick up independently.

Vintage literature can be tricky... and trippy, and it's often hard as an adult to see the message that's being conveyed. On the surface, this is a sweet tale of a man and a dog befriending each other, and that would explain its popularity in its native country, where it has been made into a play that regularly toured. For younger readers who aren't worried that the man is spending a lot of time sitting on the stoop in all weather, this will be a heartwarming tale about the enduring love and devotion of a dog, and it salvation that such a love can provide.

The tiny man's story reminded me a bit of Schoolhouse Rock's The Tale of Mr. Morton, which I will spend the rest of the day humming to myself. (That's okay. It's my favorite of the grammar rock episodes, and has a nice story as well as a solid grammatical message.) Pair this with Jones' Perdu, Thompson's A Family for Louie or Sorosiak's new Anywhere with You for a satisfying read about the power of canine friendships.
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