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When a pup and his siblings are mistreated by their owner, the pup’s mother comforts him: “Don’t worry. Someday your BOY or GIRL will come. A human who is right for you.” Though the pup hopes for the best, his next owners are as bad as the first. Eventually, the pup, who is no longer able to bark because he’s so traumatized, is taken to a rescue shelter.

Meanwhile, a young boy named Patrick has troubles of his own. His dad has been gone for months with his touring band in Australia and is evasive about when he’ll return home. When Patrick and his mother move in with Patrick’s grandfather for the summer, and his mother promises him a dog—something that’s never been allowed before because Patrick’s dad is allergic to dogs—the boy knows he’s being bought off. Patrick and his mother visit a rescue shelter, and the boy picks the pup who has lost his bark, whom he calls Oz. Now Patrick has one mission—to love Oz and help him get his bark back. 

What follows is the delightful, surprising unfolding of Patrick’s triumph with Oz, and, when Patrick’s world falls apart because of difficult news, Oz’s triumph with Patrick.

Illustrator P. J. Lynch’s exquisite pencil drawings capture the range of human emotions portrayed in Eoin Colfer’s narrative: sadness and joy, defeat and victory, and hate and love. Though recommended by the publisher for children as young as 7, the book seems better suited to children ages 9 and up. The book contains a single instance of profanity.

(Candlewick Press)

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