By: Kirby Larson
Newbery Honor-winning author Kirby Larson (Hattie Big Sky 2007) has crafted a timeless tale for dog lovers. It is 1944 and World War II is in full swing. Fifth-grader Hobie Hanson lives in America and he is coping with wartime complications like everyone else. His father is a B-24 bomber pilot and is serving overseas. Hobie contributes to the war effort by gathering scrap metal, paper, and rubber, but he wishes he could do more. He hears about the Dogs for Defense program where children “loan” their pets to the war effort, he is intrigued. His beloved dog, Duke, would make an excellent soldier, but Hobie doesn’t think he can bear to part with his best friend.
Hobie eventually decides that he will make the ultimate sacrifice and loan Duke to the war effort. He almost immediately regrets his decision and tries to get Duke back. However he learns that Duke has finished his training and is being stationed in the Pacific. Hobie is sick with worry over both his dad and his dog.
The story also contains smaller scale tensions such as a school bully and references to Japanese internment and anti-German prejudice. However, the story shines best as a portrait of the war experience on the home front and as a heartwarming tale for dog lovers.
I loved this book and would highly recommend it to any child. Even though it is historical fiction, it is a timeless tale of loyalty, patriotism, and bravery.
Renee (Parr Library)