“The dog Crusoe was once a pup.”
This is the first sentence of my latest book in the A – Z Book Challenge from Shhh… Mommy’s Blogging. The book is The Dog Crusoe and His Master – A Story of Adventure in the Western Prairies by R. M. Ballantyne.
When I was a youngster, my dad used to quote that first line. I can’t remember the circumstances, probably when we saw a dog or perhaps when some mention had been made of Robinson Crusoe. (We lived near the village where Alexander Selkirk was born.) But I digress. When I was older I was intrigued to discover that it was from a book called The Dog Crusoe. I found a copy of the book many, many years later in a secondhand bookshop and gave the copy to my father. When my father died, the copy came back to me and I have only now taken the time to read it.
Ballantyne was a writer of realistic adventure stories for young people, particularly boys, introducing readers to a variety of cultures and geographic locations. Another of his books is Coral Island. The Dog Crusoe is set in the Western Prairies of North America and deals with the interaction of the “Palefaces” and the “Redskins”. There are parts of the book that are not politically correct but when it was written it was acceptable to call native Americans “red reptiles”. When I was reading this book it brought to mind the many happy hours I spent as a child, playing cowboys and indians with my brother and sister, nowadays children would be more likely to be playing something to do with StarWars or Harry Potter. There used to be programs on television called Boots and Saddles,
Cheyenne, Tales of Wells Fargo, Bronco Layne and Davy Crockett, to name a few, so we had some idea of the American West. In fact there was a plethora of westerns.
The Dog Crusoe is a story of adventure involving Dick Varley, his dog, and two friends. Together they wander through the Western prairies on a mission to make peace between the “pale-faces” and the “Redskins”. They face many perils and become heroes many times over. The friendship between the young man and his dog is what draws the story together.
This book had great appeal in its time and I think that boys in particular would still find enjoyment reading it today. Some of the vocabulary is quite difficult for young boys but a challenge is a good thing.
Interesting to note that the bookplate is for a Sunday School prize – there is a subtle teaching of Christian values throughout the book.