The Way of Dog by Zana Fraillon

Illustrated by Sean Buckingham.

Published by Chicken House, 2023.

The Way of Dog is a brilliantly original and highly enjoyable book. I read it in a single weekend. It tells the story of Scruffity, an orphaned pup who has been bred for sale. One by one the other pups in the litter are sold until Scruffity is left alone. No-one wants to buy him. Life on a cold concrete floor inside the barn is pretty bleak save for the kindness shown to Scruffity by the dog breeder’s stepson. The connection between the dog and his “Manpup” grows and they escape the cruel dog breeder together. Unfortunately, tragedy soon strikes and the two companions are separated.

Scruffity then embarks on a quest to reunite with his Manpup. There are many perils along the way but, ultimately, it’s a heartwarming adventure of hope and new friendships.

The story is told from Scruffity’s point of view and his is an utterly charming narrative voice. He’s an immensely likeable character who comes vividly alive on the page. I love how he uses words and phrases in “dog language”: cars are MetalBeasts and ambulances are FlashingMetalBeasts. He describes smells as schnuffles, looking is to wide-eye, and instead of hearing noises, he sound-snatches things.

The book is a verse novel and I really loved reading a story told in this style. I also enjoyed how, at times, the layout of the text on the page mirrored the plot. The book is exquisitely illustrated by Sean Buckingham. His beautiful line drawings capture Scruffity perfectly.

Throughout the story, Scruffity reflects on “the way of dog” and wonders about what’s most important in life. He is wonderfully wise and – as he remarks himself – we as humans would do well to “be more dog” in our approach to living.

There are so many joyous scenes in the book; it really is a story that makes you smile and lifts your mood. When Scruffity experiences boundless joy at the sounds, smells and sights of the outdoors for the first time, it is magical. There are many scenes of tenderness and connection throughout the book as Scruffity is a dog who loves and cares; his compassion and loyalty are beautiful to behold. We all need a Scruffity in our lives.

The Way of Dog is touching and hopeful. It’s a poignant story full of warmth and heart, and one that will remain with me for a long time

Rating: 💙💙💙💙💙

Suitable for children aged 8+

Thank you to Chicken House for sending me this book to review.


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