The Dog Who Lost His Bark

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
The Dog Who Lost His Bark Book Poster Image
Abused puppy learns to trust in perfect boy-and-dog tale.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Most of the humans in this story are musicians, and Oz learns to sing along with everything from classical tunes ("Ode to Joy" is his first singalong) to movie themes and ad jingles. Readers learn that "Oz" is a nickname for Australia. The story may also be a shocking eye-opener about the bad things humans do to animals, including puppies.

Positive Messages

Strong messages about love, kindness, patience, forgiveness, wisdom -- and how it's really stupid and destructive to think that if you punish yourself enough, the bad things in your life will miraculously fix themselves.

Positive Role Models & Representations

There are some rotten humans in this tale, some who are cruel and uncaring to animals and others who are very careless with those who love them. With a lot of help and kindness from people along the way, Oz rises from the ruins of his early life to love and trust again, and after Patrick does a big wrong thing after a whole lot of right ones, forgives, because, as Patrick's mom says, "he's a dog." Patrick's mother, who's dealing with a lot herself, works hard to be there and provide needed support for Patrick, showing wisdom, kindness, moments of brilliant insight, and eventually the willingness to say enough of this nonsense, on several fronts. Patrick's grandfather, a music teacher, is fond and insightful. Zane, the hippie-looking guy at the animal rescue, goes the extra mile to support both dogs and humans.

Violence

Oz the dog suffers physical abuse and abandonment in a garbage dump at the hands of bad people before Patrick takes him in. Patrick, meanwhile, is suffering emotional trauma because of a father who seems to never be coming home, and commits a terrible betrayal as a result.

Sex

Patrick's family-ditching father who's run off with his new girlfriend is at the root of much of the trouble here.

Language
Consumerism

Scene-setting mentions of places like Costco.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Dog Who Lost His Bark, by Irish author Eoin Colfer (Artemis Fowl) and illustrated by P.J. Lynch, is a sweet, profound affirmation of the love between a boy and his dog that goes to some pretty dark places that may be too intense for some sensitive readers. Bad people are careless and cruel to a young puppy, and a kid's absent father seems pretty determined to stay that way. Against all this, young Patrick, his mom, and his grandfather show a lot of heart, wisdom, patience, and creativity in helping puppy Oz learn to trust and enjoy life -- often through the healing power of music. Love wins in this story and its heart-grabbing drawings, but it sometimes takes a rocky, relatable road getting there.

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What's the story?

Born in a puppy mill to a loving mom who can only protect him with good advice, then sold to an abusive family who eventually dump him with the garbage, THE DOG WHO LOST HIS BARK is shut down and determined to never trust another human. Then Patrick, who's wanted a dog all his life, goes to the shelter and decides he's the one. Dubbed Oz because he has an Australia-shaped spot, and because Patrick's fiddler father is on a seemingly endless tour there, the puppy is determined not to be fooled by human tricks again. But Patrick is patient (even when Oz poops in his shoes). When Oz starts howling along to Patrick's violin from Beethoven to Star Wars, it's a breakthrough. But there's still a lot of stuff ahead for these two.

Is it any good?

Eoin Colfer spins a perfect boy-dog tale that will keep readers on the edge of their seats (and grabbing the occasional Kleenex) as an abused puppy learns to trust his new, loving family. The boy Patrick, his mom, and granddad are all dealing with their own worries, but determined to help The Dog Who Lost His Bark find his courage again.

Th story is often emotionally harrowing, particularly describing the all-too-relatable abuse and abandonment of a young puppy who's trying to do the right thing, or a kid wondering why his father seems to be avoiding coming home. Ever. The power of love turns out to be strong, even when bad things happen and people do stupid things.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about stories that focus on dogs and the kids who love them, like The Dog Who Lost His Bark. What other stories have you read about kids and dogs? How does this one compare?

  • Music plays a big role in this story, as most of the humans are musicians. Do you play an instrument? Do you like it, or is it just something you have to do?

  • Puppy Oz's fortunes take a turn for the better when he lands at an animal rescue. Are there animal rescues near where you live? Do you think you might want to visit or volunteer with the animals?

Book details

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For kids who love stories about dogs and families

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