Review Blog

Oct 21 2015

The dog, Ray by Linda Coggin

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Hot Key Books, 2015. ISBN 9781471403194
(Age: 11+) Unapologetically sappy, this inoffensive reincarnation story hits the spot for 11 years plus readers. Immediately after being killed in the same motor accident which leaves her father severely disabled, Daisy finds herself in the afterlife and learns that a limited number of souls exist, necessitating rebirth as another being. Following an imperfect re-entry, Daisy retains memories and human understanding (including the ability to read) when she is born as a dog which leads to an overpowering urge to return to her human parents for reunification.
Unfortunately for her, upon leaving the litter, she finds herself owned by a lazy, selfish boy - Cyril, who neglects and fails more than maltreating her, and Daisy has little compunction about bolting when she has the chance. The dog embarks on several adventures, meeting both kindly and intolerant humans on her quest to find her family. Daisy's greatest impediment is the incapacity to speak and her excited greetings, speeches and warnings to humans are naturally heard as frightening or irritating barks. The ability for dogs and some humans to have a mutually agreeable relationship and the understanding of voiced communication from both parties is depicted in a lovely way when she meets Jack, a homeless man who gives her to Pip, a lad who is sleeping rough.
Like Daisy, Pip is searching for lost family following a bereavement and the pair roam the countryside, protecting one another from dangers which threaten those without a home.
This story delivers a lot in terms of showing the value of human kindness lavished on both people and animals during life's journey. I also liked the message that different family arrangements can be loving, nurturing and supportive, a notion that may be some comfort to children following bereavement or family breakdown. What touched me the most in this story had less to do with spiritual revisiting than thinking about the delightful attempts by affectionate animals to commune with those whom they love.
Believing in reincarnation was no problem for the purpose of reading this story, however accepting that children in a contemporary narrative for Australia could be called 'Daisy', 'Cyril' and 'Pip' was difficult.
Rob Welsh

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