A Dog Called Homeless by Sarah Lean
|A Dog Called Homeless by Sarah Lean|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor|
|Summary: Cally took part in a sponsored silence, then carried on not talking. No one would listen when she told them she'd seen her dead mother, so what was the point?|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: April 2012|
|Publisher: Harper Collins|
|External links: Author's website|
It's a year since Cally's mum was killed in an accident, but the family is still barely coping with the loss. Her brother shuts himself in his room and plays on the computer for hours. Her father has packed away all her mother's belongings and cannot stand to hear her name mentioned, and Cally herself has become difficult and disruptive at school. It feels to her that when the others refuse to mention her mother, it makes her disappear even more. The whole family is getting more and more trapped in a spiral of misery and silence, isolated from each other and losing contact with their former friends and colleagues.
And then something extraordinary happens when the whole family is gathered at the cemetery. Cally sees her mother, dressed as usual in her bright red raincoat and green hat, looking alive and happy and not at all like a ghost. She tries to tell the others but they hush her, simply saying that sometimes, if you want to see something strongly enough, you actually believe it is there before your eyes. Her father, wrapped up in his own grief, refuses point blank to hear her. Cally feels more and more separated from those around her. And then she sees her mother again, accompanied by a stray dog, a huge grey Irish wolfhound. The dog appears to belong to Jed, a homeless man she has seen round the town, but it often wanders freely about the place and develops a real attachment to Cally.
Despite her mother's reassuring smiles and the affectionate dog, things go from bad to worse at home and at school for Cally. Eventually, because no one will listen to the one thing she wants to talk about, she simply stops speaking.
This book deals with several really weighty themes, including bereavement, friendship, disability and homelessness, but it does not feel in any way like an issues book. It is, in fact, a tender, almost sentimental tale of destinies accomplished and finding care and love where you least expect it. The road to healing for Cally's family is a long and difficult one, with no magic spells to speed it along or ease the pain of loss, but for each one of them it does begin, which is the important thing. One interesting aspect of the book is the way outsiders treat the family. Cally's grandparents, uncles and aunts consider her insistence that she has seen her mother as a silly game, and they make reproving comments about her vivid imagination. At school some teachers are unsure how to handle her: surely, now a whole year has passed, she should be settling down? And even her best friend abandons her, unable to cope any longer with the fact that she is always getting into trouble by being distracted or cheeky.
This is a moving story, which gently shows what it is like to grieve, and that no two people go through this process in the same way or at the same pace. It makes clear the fact that other people can do very little to help except be there for the person in pain, ready to offer support and a listening ear. It is the kind of book which would provoke plenty of discussion and thought (the website provides several suggestions for teachers) and would be a valuable addition to any school library.
Another story about dogs, for slightly older readers perhaps, is Doglands by Tim Willocks, about a dog who has to choose between safety and freedom. And a further story about a family in crisis which is helped by an animal is Flyaway by Lucy Christopher. You'll definitely need tissues for this one, too.
You can read more book reviews or buy A Dog Called Homeless by Sarah Lean at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy A Dog Called Homeless by Sarah Lean at Amazon.com.
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