The Underdogs of Upson Downs

The Underdogs of Upson Downs
Age Range
Release Date
March 12, 2024
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Annie Shearer lives in the country town of Upson Downs with her best friend, an adopted stray dog called Runt. The two share a very special bond.

After years evading capture, Runt is remarkably fast and agile, perfect for herding runaway sheep. But when a greedy local landowner puts her family's home at risk, Annie directs Runt's extraordinary talents toward a different pursuit--winning the Agility Course Grand Championship at the lucrative Krumpets Dog Show in London.

However, there is a curious catch: Runt will only obey Annie's commands if nobody else is watching.

With all eyes on them, Annie and Runt must beat the odds--and the fastest dogs in the world--to save her farm.

Editor review

1 review
A heart-warming tale
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
What worked:
Annie and her dog Runt make a delightfully unique pair of characters. Annie prefers to be by herself so others think she’s strange. She sees herself as a fixer and she’s happiest when trying to find remedies for anything not working correctly. Annie’s immediately concerned by the drought that’s slowly killing Upson Downs and by the possibility of her family losing its farm. She feels a strong connection to her deceased grandfather Wally since he was an eccentric inventor. The rainmaker she builds by following Wally’s plans doesn’t work as she expected so her attention becomes focused on saving the farm. Annie also wonders what her father is doing in his greenhouse and why he feels a need to lock its door.
A neighbor is one of the plot’s antagonists as he’s dammed up a river, keeping precious water from the other farms in the area. The man collects everything imaginable but not because he actually wants them. His motivation is owning anything other people might want just so he has them, and everybody else doesn’t. Another antagonist is a fame-hungry dog owner who’s finished second in sixteen national agility competitions. He’s an egotist always looking to make headlines and he sees Runt and Annie as challenges to winning the tournament this year. He’ll do anything, no matter how devious, to keep Runt from stealing his fame and glory.
Runt used to be a runaway mutt, tormenting shop owners and the town’s deputy. Annie found him outside her school one day and they’ve been inseparable ever since. Runt is always by Annie’s side but he doesn’t like to interact when other humans are around. He’ll follow Annie’s hand gestures on command unless he sees people watching. His laser-focus on Annie exemplifies their tight bond but it’s also the source of his inability to perform in public. Runt’s cuteness and intelligence will endear him to readers and they’ll cheer on this amazing underdog.
What didn’t work as well:
The story is told in the third-person, present tense which doesn’t allow readers to fully connect with the characters. It would be nice to get inside Annie’s mind during this emotional tale to appreciate the important decisions and feelings she experiences.
The final verdict:
The book shares a heart-warming, underdog story that will appeal to readers of all ages. The author can’t go wrong by featuring a cute dog and the two antagonists are easy to root against. I recommend you give this book a shot!
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