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By: Margot Theis Raven
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Publication Date: August 2014
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: August 30, 2014
Mon dieu! The little white dog was nothing but a nuisance. No one on earth could ever love a dog that lurked in alleyways overturning garbage. In the dark of one Paris night sirens were heard and people escaped into hiding “so they wouldn’t be seen by enemy planes.” Private James Donovan, an American soldier, accidentally stumbled upon the mutt as he too hid in a doorway in the dark. Even soldiers weren’t supposed to be roaming the streets, but when a policeman demanded his pass, James made up a tale. “Sir, this dog is our division mascot,” he began. “I ran off base to find him when he went missing.” Ah, yes, the little dirty dog was indeed a lucky one, perhaps luckier than anyone could have ever guessed.
First Division Rags became his new name, Rags for short. Donovan and Rags were now on the move, heading to the battlefront. The trenches whirled with activity when Rags chased off the mice. He alerted the men when he “heard the buzz of incoming shells before the soldiers did.” Rags was Donovan’s right-hand man and worked hard to win the war. Even shells exploding around him didn’t keep him from his job as he delivered messages. One day the men found themselves trapped in a whirl of fog in the midst of a major battle in the Argonne Forest. “Go find,” Donovan said to Rags, but then the shells began to hit. Would Rags be able to save the First Division or would they all die in the trenches?
This is the amazing tale of Rags, an unusual hero of WWI that young readers will love. The tale is a bit fictionalized, but Rags was indeed a real dog who was an unexpected hero. The tale is prefaced by a brief overview of the war dogs that were used during WWI. It swings quickly into the tale of one little dog who wasn’t trained for the part, but rather stumbled into it by a chance meeting with a soldier who would take him into battle. The artwork is beautifully rendered in slightly darkened tones, indicative of dark times long ago. Young readers will definitely fall in love with Rags and just may become interested in researching the unsung heroes of war … dogs. In the back of the book is more information about the fate of Donovan and his very devoted sidekick, Rags.
Quill says: Young readers will be wowed by the heroism of a small dog that no one really wanted!