Holiday House, 2015. 978-0823433940
Synopsis: When twelve-year-old Sam overhears his parents talking about their elderly and infirm Labrador retriever, Pogo, he’s convinced they plan to have the dog put down. To save Pogo, Sam sets sail with the dog in a fourteen foot boat for an island off the coast of Maine. The elements conspire against them as they move from one danger to another: fog, near decapitation by a tugboat cable, a storm at sea, a lurking shark and the loss of their boat. Sam summons courage and ingenuity to meet each new challenge, helped along the way by Pogo’s loyalty, a one-eyed cormorant, a retired ornithologist, and a lifetime of good nautical advice from his older brother. As he battles nature’s fury, Sam is finally able to come to terms with what he has truly been running from: his brother’s death in Afghanistan. – from Amazon.com
Why I picked it up: I’m an animal lover and dog (read: fur person) owner and I know how hard it is to be faced with losing a pet.
Why I finished it: This story starts out suspenseful and manages to keep the reader on the edge of their seat throughout the duration of the book. Sam’s adventure takes us out onto the open sea and out of our comfort zone. It was hard not for me to feel anxious and worried while I read, turning page after page, hoping for something positive to happen in the midst of repeated fallbacks and misfortunes. It’s hard not to admire his perseverance, pushing onward even though the elements are continually conspiring against him. I liked that Macfarlane uses sailing terminology without going through a lengthy explanation of what the phrases mean; it assumes the reader is intelligent and shows off the author’s credentials as a sailor. For the unattained (like myself), here’s a couple of helpful links to maximize your understanding of jibs, masts, sails, and the like. It’s an adventure-packed story that tugs at our hearts and challenges our mind.
Other related materials: Old Wolf by Avi, illustrated by Brian Floca; Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner; The Misadventures of the Magician’s Dog by Frances Sackett; Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor; Tornado by Betsy Byars; Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls; Hatchet by Gary Paulsen; My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George; Old Yeller by Fred Gipson; Sounder by William H. Armstrong; Spirit’s Key by Edith Cohn; Malcolm Under the Stars by W.H. Beck, illustrated by Brian Lies; Until I Find Julian by Patricia Reilly Giff; Seven Dead Pirates by Linda Bailey; The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall; Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff; Paperboy by Vince Vawter