I bought this book over the internet. I thought it was a children’s picture book because Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are) illustrated the book. Silly me, I should have looked at the description a bit better – 192 pages in total.
I was probably blinded by the description of the story…
“The friendship of a little red hen and a homeless dog who appoints himself her protector is treated by the author with delicacy and strength in lovely and lucid prose. A moving story, full of suspense.”
I was the sort of kid who was always bringing home stray animals. Many of them were dogs, but one day I found a little black hen in the bush near the river and brought her home. She stayed with us for a long while until a stray dog (not one of my strays) came into the yard and snatched her away. She used to sleep on top of my aviary. She also used to lay her eggs on the top of the aviary, roll them off, and eat them.
Having bought the book, I thought that I may as well read it.
It was the sort of book that I wanted to read quickly to find out what was going to happen next, but I also wanted to read it slowly so I could savour every beautifully written sentence. It is a heart-felt story, written from the perspective of the hen, the dog, and the farmer. The hen is disabled. The dog is lonely and looking for a home. The dog appoints himself as the hen’s protector. All the while, the farmer who works six days per week on the boss’ farm down the road, comes home and tries to piece together what has happened at his place while he has been away. Anyone who has enjoyed the company of chooks, or dogs, and has found themselves talking to either like they are kindred souls, will love this story.
I would have liked a picture of the barn though, because not being from the country I couldn’t quite visualise all of the equipment and the layout from the detailed description. I think by the end I had figured it out, vaguely.
I think this story would make a brilliant children’s picture book, but it would need to be retold in a shorter format.
Along came a dog, written by Meindert DeJong, illustrated by Maurice Sendak, (1958) Harper Trophy.
Age group? Maybe 8 to 14 years of age.