The Stephensons' Rocket by Jayne Woodhouse

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The Stephensons' Rocket by Jayne Woodhouse

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A wonderful, heart-warming tale of how one family saved a retired greyhound, and how, against all the odds, he saved them. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 194 Date: October 2009
Publisher: The Clucket Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0954925673

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Pete Stephenson is full of schemes which are going to earn big money. A small investment is always going to reap thousands but it's always his wife, Jo, who has to make up the money he wastes and his children, Anna and Darren who suffer. This scheme looks like being the one that finally breaks the family apart. Pete has bought a dog – a champion greyhound, he assures them – for a hundred pounds and he's going to race and bring big money to the family. There are, though a few snags. Sheldon Rocket is neglected, underweight, with a skin infection and to cap it all he can't run because he has a broken leg. Oh, and did I mention that Jo won't have anything to do with him?

Anna tells us the story and she's a wonderful narrator – truthful, understanding and with a real love of both her parents, despite their shortcomings. It's good to find a book for children where adults are not perfect, because we're not you know! The story of how Pete, who knew nothing about dogs, finds his sense of responsibility because of Rocky is great. It doesn't happen overnight, but gradually he sees that he's got to work to support his family and keep the dog who comes to mean so much to him.

We see Darren begin to make a real friend in another boy. It's definitely not the boy the family would have liked him to be friendly with, but it strikes a chord when Marcus tells the family to give Rocky a chance because a chance is what Marcus needs too and when he's given some trust and understanding he repays it admirably. At the other end of the age range old Wilf who lives next door has some hidden talents which the family never suspected.

But what of the star of the book? Well, Rocky was one of the many retired greyhounds who fall on hard times when their racing days are over. Owners are meant to find the dog a good home at this point but far too many simply lose interest when the animal is no longer of use to them are there are horror stories about what really happens to these gorgeous, big-hearted dogs. Rocky was lucky that he found a loving home – so many do not – and you'll cheer along with the family at each small step which he (and they) make.

I loved this book. It's a wonderful, heart-warming tale which perfectly captures family life and living with a rescue dog. Never think it's easy, because it is not and the book doesn't make it feel like a bed of roses. Children reading the book are going to realise what looking after a dog really means – that's it's a long-term commitment for the welfare of the animal. The points are made but in a non-preachy fashion – and they have more impact because of that.

The book's going to appeal most to the tweens, but even as an adult with many multiples of that age group to my credit I still found that this was a book I couldn't put down. I really wanted to know what happened to Rocky and his new family and I suspect that this is going to be one of those books which gets read over and over again.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If you'd like to find out more about retired greyhounds and the Retired Greyhound Trust who do so much work on their behalf then have a look at their website. For those who would like more reading for this age group on a similar subject we can recommend Born To Run by Michael Morpurgo, an updated version of the Black Beauty story. Adults might also be interested in the story of another dog who made a real difference to his owner's life: I Have Heard You Calling In The Night by Thomas Healy.

Buy The Stephensons' Rocket by Jayne Woodhouse at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Stephensons' Rocket by Jayne Woodhouse at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Stephensons' Rocket by Jayne Woodhouse at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Stephensons' Rocket by Jayne Woodhouse at Amazon.com.


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