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The Prairie Dogs

by Glenda Goertzen, Philippe Béha, illus.

Prince Pierrot Rudolphe IV L’Orgueil De Montreal, or “Pierre” for short, is a coddled show dog accidentally left behind by his owners at a gas station parking lot in a small Prairie town. Accustomed to a climate-controlled motor home and a regular diet of Crunchy Nibbles dog food, Pierre the Poodle is, at first, unsure of this wilder, rural landscape, but begins to find his new, sometimes dangerous, freedom exhilarating. More than just another fish-out-of-water story, this is a delightful, fast-paced tale of canine survival and camaraderie that ends with a wholly satisfying conclusion. Characters such as Mew, the puppy who thinks she is a cat, and Mouse, the sensitive chihuahua who faints at the most inopportune moments, are quirky and memorable.

Refreshingly, the first-time author, Glenda Goertzen of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, doesn’t hide the fact that this novel is set soundly on the Canadian Prairies rather than in a generic North American location. References to things Canadian, such as the RCMP and Canadian cities, are not overly emphasized, but mentioned as a natural part of the story.

Governor General’s Award-winning illustrator Philippe Béha provides charming black-and-white cartoon vignettes to accompany the text. Unfortunately, the cover design – with its uniform pale blue background and plainly centred text – may not have enough shelf appeal to attract the readership the book deserves. Still, this is an excellent choice for young fans of animal fiction and for teachers looking for an appealing classroom read-aloud.