Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Dog Called Scholar by Anne H. White

158 pages
Published 1963
The Viking Press
New York, NY

A few weeks back I was browsing the children's book section for stories to read aloud to my daughter when I passed by the Juvenile section and A Dog Called Scholar caught my eye.

Out of curiosity I did a little digging on the Internet, but couldn't find much about A Dog Called Scholar or its author, Anne H. White. Apparently this book hasn't fared as well as other books from the same era, it and its author didn't even warrant a spot on Wikipedia. And because of this I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when I discovered it wasn't even properly listed on Shelfari, someone had posted the book but with the illustrator as being the author! (Yes, I changed it.)

But despite it's near anonymity I really enjoyed A Dog Called Scholar, so I'm hoping to draw some attention to it through this review.

The Plot:
A Dog Called Scholar is set in the present day (of publication, around 1963) in what I suspect to be a rural New England town. As the story opens a litter of Golden Retriever puppies has been born to two of Mr. and Mrs. Woodward Wilson's most prized "Wonder Dogs." Unfortunately while most of the litter appears to carry on their parents beauty and breeding, there is one little ball of fluff that appears different. Not exactly the runt, but definitely a little slow, this puppy is dubbed, Little Moo. It doesn't take long for Mrs. Wilson to decide they must be rid of Little Moo and as soon as possible before he has a chance of clouding the Wilson Wonder Dog name as well as their popularity.

Enter the Tucker family with their two children, Clem and Susie. Some time previous to this story the Wilson's stayed with the Tuckers while both family's were abroad in Europe. It is when Mrs. Wilson considers Little Moo's fate that she remembers she never properly thanked the Tuckers for their hospitality by way of a gift and that giving Little Moo to the Tuckers would be the solution to all her problems.

The Tuckers (excepting Mr. Tucker) are delighted to have their very own dog and it isn't long before Little Moo is adopted into the Tucker family and renamed Cubby... and then later Scholar. The rest of the story follows the comedic adventures of Scholar with the Tuckers and around town. The climax of the story actually comes in the last chapter when the Wilson's return, having learned what a wonderful dog Scholar turned out to be, and try to buy him back much to the distres of everyone, but Mr. Tucker. From this point until the end of the chapter and likewise the end of the book the story becomes a page-turner. What will be the fate of Scholar?

My Thoughts:
From start to finish A Dog Called Scholar is a delightfully charming and funny story about a dog and his family. In some ways it reminded me of a 1960s children's version of the popular Marley and Me (reviewed), but only a little (Scholar is not quite as crazy as Marley). A Dog Called Scholar is a great read for dog lovers of all ages, but especially for children. I would even say it could make for a great read-aloud to younger children and I'm adding it to the long list of books I want to share with my daughter when she gets a little older, as she is a big fan of dogs.

On a scale of 1-5, 1 being horrible and 5 being excellent I would rate A Dog Called Scholar a 4. It is a charming, yet dated story (there are lots of references to life during the 1960s which would be quite foreign to a child of the millennium), still it is a fun read and one that should not be quickly forgotten. Check your local library, they might have a copy. If not, used copies can be found online at a very affordable price (under $5).

As a side note, during my online research I discovered Ms. White published a few other novels, including one that Robert McCloskey illustrated. I definitely want to check that one out.


Carrie said...

This looks like a really cute book. If I come across a copy, I'll now know to pick it up. Thanks for highlighting it!

pussreboots said...

You have my attention. I'll have to see if I can track down a copy of the book to read. Thanks for the review.

Liz said...

I've not heard of this, but have heard of the illustrator. One of my brothers LOVES stuff like this, so I'm going to send him your review. It's quite possible he has heard of it (he's a college reference librarian, plus he haunts used book stores. Interestingly, he's looking for nice quality Betsy-Tacy-Tib books for me!).

I've just come across (doing some research for a friend wanting some recs for her daughter) the Runt Farm books by Amanda Lorenzo -- it also features animals, though is not really a "dog story," as your book is. Runt Farm is the home of a multi-species band of animals who form their own family. It's cute -- give it a look.

S. Mehrens said...

Liz, thanks for the tip. I'll have to check those books out. :)

Stan said...

Honestly, I'm surprised so few people have heard of A Dog Called Scholar. It's a book my mother read when it was first published, and memorable enough to her she ensured my siblings and I read it when we were children. I wouldn't call it a childhood classic, but it's darn close. I consider it every bit as good as other 60's books that are more memorable to the general population, such as Where the Red Fern Grows.

After reading the book I trained the family dog to play "Not Bought, Paid for!" (and every dog I've had since then). It's a very memorable read.