All Hal had ever wanted was a dog.
Hal is no boy with a fleeting whim. This soon-to-be ten-year-old has been planning this, dreaming about this, for as long as he can remember. The problem is his parents; both too busy to pay any attention to their son, believing that money can buy happiness.
When his Mom's plans for his birthday backfire, a man of dubious character appearing in a dog suit, Hal erupts. To smooth over his forgetting Hal's birthday, his Dad promises Hal the very next day they will go pick out a dog. What he purposely forgets to tell Hal, is that the dog is a rental for the weekend only.
Myron and Mavis Carker, owners of The Easy Pets Dog Agency, a couple of shady characters if ever there were two, have, what they believe, a business that has them riding strong and fast on the road to riches. Acquiring dogs with pedigree, renting them for ridiculous amount of money and hiring dog-loving Kayley to cater to the dogs' every need for minimum wage, sends their greedy little hearts aflutter. Finding a mongrel stray outside her home, Kayley smuggles him into the one empty crate in the room next to her office, naming him Fleck. As far as Mr. Carker is concerned this is a new breed, The Tottenham Terrier.
Sharing the room with Fleck is a Saint Bernard, Otto, who dearly misses serving those in need, a wee little Pekinese, Li-Chee, bred to guard Chinese Emperors, Francine, a poodle, who would much rather be back in the circus performing, a collie, Honey, who longs to herd anything and cranky Queen Tilly, a Mexican hairless spoiled in her earlier life and not adjusting to being a rental. Strolling through The Easy Pets Dog Agency, Hal tells Kayley,
"No, I just want to look---when I see the right one, I'll know," He looked up at her trustingly. "I'll know at once, I'm absolutely sure."
When he sees Fleck and Fleck sees him, the bonding is instantaneous and forever; two days of pure joy for this duo. On Monday when Hal's mother tricks him and he discovers Fleck is gone big changes are in the works. Hal is going to get Fleck and travel to his grandparents in Northumberland. What he doesn't realize is Kayley's younger sister, Pippa, is going with him after she, in a spontaneous moment, releases the other dogs in Room A except for Queen Tilly.
Going across country from London is no easy task, let alone with five dogs in tow. A circus, Greystoke House, a field of sheep, and the monastery of St. Roch are interwoven into an action-filled storyline, propelling the children and their canine companions toward their goal. Not trusting the police to find his missing son, Donald, enlists the services of a private detective agency, posting a handsome reward.
Caring, helpful people and truly nasty, despicable characters surround Pippa and Hal on their journey; its outcome hanging on the thread of hope. But Eva Ibbotson's books strive to leave readers with a good ending. One Dog and His Boy is no exception.
While the bones of this tale are nothing new, when given flesh by the capable, creative mind of Eva Ibbotson, readers win and win big. Her detailed descriptions of her characters' personalities are sheer delight.
Albina Fenton, Hal's mother, was in her walk-in wardrobe, trying to decide what to wear.
"Really, everything's in rags," she muttered, passing along a row of glittering evening dresses, then back along a line of tailored suits, opening drawers of frilly blouses and embroidered scarves. "I'll have to throw most of it away and start again. Some serious shopping is required."
..."If I didn't know it was going to be over the day after tomorrow, I couldn't stand it," said Albina. "I found a white hair on the carpet----and another on the footstool. And I nearly fell over the creature's drinking bowl. I do so hate mess!"
Ibbotson keeps readers guessing right up to the last minute, plot twists confounding in their unpredictability; something good happens when expecting bad and vice versa. People, dogs and events are tied together so well that readers holding this book know, without a doubt, this present has been wrapped by a master; a master that is missed.
One Boy and His Dog by Eva Ibbotson is one of her finest books; for dog lovers required reading, for others wanting adventure with goodness triumphant, there is none better. I love this book and so will my students. Multiple copies will be available.
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UK paperback version.