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*Rascal: A Dog and His Boy* by Ken Wells, illustrated by Christian Slade- young readers fantasy book review
Rascal: A Dog and His Boy
by Ken Wells, illustrated by Christian Slade
Ages 8-12 208 pages Knopf September 2010 Hardcover    

Told from the point of view of an adorable beagle, Rascal is a charming story of a puppy born on a Louisiana farm, and securing his own home with a lonely boy.

Rascal and the boy spend many long, happy hours together hunting in the woods. One day, Rascal gets lost in the woods and meets a rattlesnake. In danger of being killed, Rascal is surprised when the snake does not attack; instead Rascal learns that his boy showed mercy to the snake, so the snake has compassion for Rascal.

Eventually, Rascal finds himself back at the farm, reacquainting himself with the animals, especially Maw, the barn cat. After finally reuniting with his boy, the two best friends traipse through the woods hunting almost every day. One day, the boy falls through a, old footbridge and is caught. Realizing his boy is unable to get out and faces great danger in the woods all alone, Rascal returns through the woods to find help.

Running into his old snake friend, Rascal asks him to protect the boy from a larger, more vicious snake. More of Rascalís farm friends come to help, and eventually Rascal attracts the attention of the farmer to save the boy. A glossary of Cajun terms, expressions and pronunciations concludes the book.

While the plot follows a rather predictable path, the dogís perspective and Cajun dialect make this story unique. For those unfamiliar with the vocabulary, it takes some diligence to become comfortable with this unusual outlook.

Wells does an excellent job of portraying how a dog sees life: his priorities, his devotion and his understanding of the relationships between animals and people. Christian Sladeís detailed pencil sketches capture Rascalís frisky nature and draw the reader closer to this lovable character as the story moves forward.

Readers who take the time to know Rascal will come to love him and will be cheering for him as the boyís dire situation becomes a question of life or death. Recommended for children who love dogs and others who enjoy stories which capture the Louisiana Bayou at a time when it was still relatively isolated from mainstream America.
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