The Bomber Dog
Dover 1944: World War 2 is at its height. One night, after a bombing raid, a young Alsatian dog rescues his friend, a spaniel, and drags her to safety. He is found by Nathan, who is about to join up. The dog is homeless and ownerless and Nathan, impressed by his courage in rescuing his friend, names him Grey and takes him to the War Dog Training School. Nathan will train as a paratrooper and Grey will be his paradog. They will be dropped over occupied France.
Grey loves Nathan and learning, but the parachute drop, shortly before D-Day, is a disaster. They become separated. How can Grey, now on his own, find Nathan again? And how can he keep safe and alive when war is raging all around him?
I love the way that Megan Rix gives us a dog’s eye view of the world; the importance of smell, for example, and Grey’s natural curiosity about other creatures he meets, from goats and chickens to old Elijah, a traveller living in a bombed-out plane on the French sand dunes. Elijah looks after Grey when he is hurt by shrapnel, and, later, plays his fiddle to soothe him. Grey’s life will touch a number of people, English, French and German, and bring out the best in all of them.
My one niggle is the time it takes for Grey’s story to get going. Do we really need a first chapter about Sabine in France hiding a puppy from the Germans? Readers naturally identify with the first characters they meet. They don’t expect them to disappear for over 180 pages, leaving them to start again with Grey. However, I enjoyed learning about the War Dog Training School and the important part played by dogs in the Allied victory. Children of 9+ should love this book.
I thought that this book was amazing because it was so real and lifelike, that when I was reading it, I could imagine myself being Grey and jumping off that plane. Throughout, I wished I could have a German Shepherd dog because Grey was so kind, loving and brave. If this was a real story, I would definitely choose Grey to be a paratrooper dog. I loved how Nathan was always in the story too and not being left out – their relationship is startlingly well-developed. From the first moment they meet they are perfectly in tune. If I had to rate this book, I would give it 10 out of 10, and the ages that I think should read it are 9-15, because it so real that I think my older brother would love this book too.
Louis McNulty, aged 10