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The Way of Dog by Zana Fraillon

Title: The Way of Dog

A line drawing of a dog next to the title The Way of Dog by Zana Fraillon.

Author: Zana Fraillon

Genre: Verse novel

Publisher: University of Queensland Press

Published: 3rd May 2022

Format: Paperback

Pages: 272

Price: $16.99

Synopsis: A fiercely original verse novel from the ABIA and CBCA award-winning author of The Bone Sparrow.

Be strong. Be fierce. Life is more than a concrete floor.

Scruffity is born into the harsh, grey world of a puppy farm. Taken from his mamma and locked in a concrete cage, what he yearns for most is Family. To belong is The Way of Dog. But no one wants him.

Just as his chances of adoption grow dangerously thin, Scruffity is set free by a boy as unwanted and lonely as
he is.

Outside, Scruffity learns all about The Way of Dog – it is to run, to dig, to howl and, biggest of all, to love. But when tragedy strikes, Scruffity is suddenly all alone.

How does a dog find his way home when he never had one to begin with?

~*~

Scruffity is the only pup left in his litter at the puppy farm, and all he wants is a family. One day, he is freed by ManPup, and they run away together. They’re inseparable until tragedy strikes, and Scruffity is left alone, searching for food, love, and shelter, and looking for home – but where is home, and who does Scruffity belong to? In a heart-breaking verse novel, told from Scruffity’s perspective, the Way of Dog will come to Scruffity in his darkest moments, when he has lost all hope. And one day, he will learn how to be a dog, and how to be loved – in the midst of a dark, and tragic world that doesn’t seem to want him to stick around.

I haven’t read many verse novels, but the ones I have read have been amazing, and I think The Way of Dog has to be the best, and the most heart-breaking at times (don’t worry, Scruffity survives – after all, he is our narrator). I absolutely loved that he was the narrator, and I could imagine many dogs using similar language to describe the world around them, as they navigate what they know and what they are learning. I think the verse novel works well for something like this, because I can imagine animals might have these sorts of processes – the simple language, how they view humans as ManPups and Girlpups, what they think of what we do, wear, and the places we live – it’s their interpretation, the way they put the words they know together. It is these aspects that makes Scruffity such an engaging character – I didn’t want to leave him, because I had to know what he did next.

I felt for Scruffity throughout – I wanted to reach in and help him, and make sure he was safe and loved, and at the end, I was so thrilled, I wanted to cheer for him. Scruffity is an uplifting character, and I think Sean Buckingham’s illustrations work so well with Zana’s words. They pick up the immense gravitas and differing feelings of hope and hopelessness throughout the novel as Scruffity goes on his journey. It is a story about strength and bravery too – about how dogs see the best in us, and we should see the best in them too. Scruffity is gorgeous – he’s fluffy and cuddly and I loved his optimism – that he would find his way home – even when he doubted, he would and wondered how he would. He’s the perfect vehicle to talk about hope and coming together to help each other, and what it means to look after people – what it means to find your way, even if the path you take isn’t the one you planned. I’m looking forward to reading more of Zana’s work as well.

A great verse novel that made me laugh, smile, and cry in equal parts. I would love a Scruffity in my life.

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