A Street Dog Named Pup is a profoundly moving, compelling and powerful read that will break the hardest of hearts yet is so full of love and loyalty that it restores your faith in the importance of the bond of friendship and the value of hope when times are dark and difficult. It could well change your attitude to dogs as well.
This is the story of Pup, a young dog dumped in the city streets, and his search for love and a home and in particular for ‘his boy’, the person who showed him love and kindness. When Pup is first abandoned he is alone and bewildered and must somehow learn to fend for himself. His trust in and loyalty to humans is sorely tested during his long and difficult journey to happiness. Initially befriended by Frenchi, a slightly gruff but kindly French bulldog, and subsequently becoming part of a pack of street dogs Pup has to learn quickly how to survive. As the story progresses he suffers highs and lows, makes friends and enemies, learns how to cope and adapt, discovers kindness and loses it again. But through it all Pup never ever gives up hope of being reunited with the boy he loved and who loved him in return. An epic story of determination and resilience this moved me greatly and not only because I am a dog lover. Gill Lewis has written what could in many ways be seen as a depiction of modern life and how humanity, or indeed the lack of humanity, makes a profound difference.
This has for me similar qualities to those much loved childhood animal stories such as One Hundred and One Dalmatians and Watership Down. The story is told from Pup’s point of view providing a slightly different aspect to events and the ensemble cast of dogs feature distinct characters with traits both good and bad. The different dogs also reflect the aspects of each breed which we associate with them, for example Merle the protective Collie constantly counts and checks up on her ‘flock’ and Lady Fifi may be a tiny terrier but she certainly has a big personality. From the opening lines of the story itself I cared about Pup, it would be difficult not to do so. This is a story told with a love for and an understanding of dogs and Gill Lewis highlights the deep connection between man and dog. I love the prologue telling the story of Sirius, the ‘Dog Star’, the brightest star in the night sky and the myth of how it acquired its nickname. Sirius and its story are referred to during the book and I was drawn to the way in which the dogs used this story to comfort and console in much the same way as we use myths, legends and bible stories.
Although chiefly Pup’s story this is also about ‘his boy’ and the book is interspersed with sections written by the boy himself and this dual version of events adds a greater depth to the storyline and to its impact. Much like Pup the boy is searching for love and a sense of belonging so that the two need each other is both understandable and moving.
I loved this story and it is one of those books where as you read you lose an awareness of time and the world around you; a sure sign of an excellent novel. Pup’s story is one that encourages the reader to think about our attitude to animals in particular to dogs but it also shines a light on society and some of its failings. An important and powerful story.
This would undoubtably appeal to children who are dog lovers but I think it may be upsetting for more sensitive young readers, in particular those who may have recently lost a much loved pet. There are a scenes of organised dog fights and ill treatment of animals which need to be borne in mind when recommending the book to primary aged children.
This is an extraordinary book. It had a profound effect on me as reader; although heartbreaking and harrowing in places it is beautifully written and there is much kindness and wisdom in its pages. It has gone soaring up my list of favourite books of 2021 so far.
I should like to thank the publishers for providing my proof copy. A Street Dog Named Pup is published by David Fickling Books on 1st April and features appealing illustrations throughout by Gill and a gorgeous cover illustration by Levi Pinfold.