A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that author Robert Weintraub's young-reader adaptation of his best-selling No Better Friend is the true story of a young British serviceman and an English pointer with excellent survival skills who meet in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp during World War II. It offers many thrilling moments as Frank and Judy escape death time after time and give each other, as well as their fellow prisoners, the courage to go on. Along the way, there's a lot of historic detail and background information. Since the story takes place during World War II, it includes the violent deaths and injuries of prisoners, women, and children as well as military. In the course of describing various atrocities, it often describes the perpetrators as "the Japanese," offering plenty of opportunity to discuss overly broad, dated stereotypes -- and, perhaps, how to deal with first-person historic accounts that include them.
What's the story?
In the wake of World War II, young RAF radar man Frank Williams and Judy the English pointer returned home after years in Southeast Asia as prisoners of war. Soon Williams and many of his fellow survivors were telling anyone who would listen of Judy's remarkable loyalty, cleverness, and courage in keeping them alive through shipwrecks and starvation. Judy would eventually become a British "Hero Dog" and receive the Dickin Medal, the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross. Author Robert Weintraub told Frank and Judy's story for an adult audience in the original NO BETTER FRIEND; now he offers a young-reader adaptation full of historic detail, danger, deprivation, death -- and a loyal friendship that survives it all.
Is it any good?
A new generation of readers learns the inspiring true story of a wily, heroic dog and her fellow POWs in WWII, especially her lifesaving adventures and lifelong bond with a young RAF radar man. Along the way, there's a wealth of historic background, with plenty of detail about the horrors of war (from death to dysentery) and the perils of jungle and sea -- all of which will probably delight history buffs and bore readers who just want a good dog story. Somewhat oddly, given the heavily historic narrative and first-person accounts, author Weintraub often treats speculation as fact where there's an unanswerable question or gap in the story, e.g.:
"With Frank, things were different from the start. It was a love story. Perhaps Judy sensed how caring and giving Frank's gesture was. A starving man was going hungry so that she could eat his rice. No wonder she fell head over heels for him."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about stories of heroic dogs who risk their own lives to help and save people. It's a popular subject for fiction -- but there are also many examples in real life. Which others have you heard about?
What do you know about World War II? Do you know about the experiences of people in your family during that time?
How do you feel when you hear words such as "Jap," which were common at the time of this story but are considered racist today?
- Author: Robert Weintraub
- Genre: History
- Topics: Adventures, Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Friendship, History
- Book type: Non-Fiction
- Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: May 3, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 18
- Number of pages: 304
- Available on: Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: July 13, 2017
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