Book Review: A Dog’s Life: The Autobiography of a Stray by Ann M. Martin

I found this middle-grade book in the independent reader section of a used book store and picked it up because I love dogs and I love reading authors’ takes on animal “voices.” As the title suggests, this book is told from the point of view of Squirrel, a stray dog who spends most of her life in the wild and outskirts of civilization.

tale of a strayI bought the book without looking inside and was pleased to find I enjoyed Squirrel’s voice. So many people nowadays have Facebook and Twitter accounts for their pets, and they all speak in “lol-cats” voices, such as “I can haz cheezburger?” A Dog’s Life was a refreshing break from that. The dog’s voice was genuine, simple, and eager, making her a likeable character from the start.

Squirrel is one of the two surviving dogs born to her mother’s last liter. Her brother, Bone, lives with Squirrel and her mother in an abandoned shed of a summer home until their mother disappears. Bone decides it’s time to leave the safety of their shed, and Squirrel (loving her brother more than anything) follows. Their journey is full of dangers, including rabid foxes, hungry packs of feral dogs, busy highways, and humans of various levels of intention. I won’t spoil any more of the plot for you.

What I enjoyed was the author’s take on the various humans involved in Squirrel’s life. Some were well-intentioned, but Squirrel, being born in the wild, simply didn’t trust them. Others, whom Squirrel was forced to trust, turned out to be irresponsible (or jerks). Of course there were plenty of well-intentioned and helpful humans, but it was interesting that a few “lesser” humans were enough to make quite an impact on Squirrel. My favorite part (and here’s a tiny bit of a spoiler) is when Squirrel grows old and finds herself at the house of an equally old woman. It’s quite a touching ending.

The book is good for dog lovers. I can see non-dog-lovers rolling their eyes at some parts, though, because the story does revolve around the life of a dog—humans are secondary. It would be a good book to read to children night by night as it offers an opportunity to discuss different perspectives as well as the huge responsibility pet ownership actually is.

I’ve read a handful of similar dog books, and this has been my favorite so far because the voice of the narrator is “just right.” It’s not too cute nor too adult. It’s just the way I would think a dog would be.