Review sponsored by Robert Belenky
The Children’s Book Review | May 8, 2017
Written by Robert Belenky
Age Range: 8-12 years
Paperback: 60 pages
Publisher: Maddoggerel Publications (March 24, 2017)
What to expect: Dog’s Perspective, Intelligent Writing, Strong Characters
Milly: My Life as a Labradoodle is a collection of five stories told from the perspective of a dog. Much like a recently released movie, these tales are narrated by a dog but without the maudlin overtones. The book ends with a very interesting afterword on the nature of facts, dreams and storytelling.
But first, the dog tales.
There are five of them, beginning with the birth and adoption of Milly, the eponymous labradoodle, traveling through some trouble with litigation and tennis balls, and concluding with a dreamscape on aging and death. Things don’t begin easily for Milly, since her birth mother is unable to feed her. Luckily, she is soon adopted: “Then one day—I remember it well—Mother Mary and Capt’n Bob showed up at Mme Claudia’s. I didn’t know them, but they seemed nice enough. Mary picked me up, placed me on her lap, and stroked my fur. I really liked that and decided right away that she was a good person. Capt’n Bob seemed okay, too, but he didn’t do much except talk to Claudia.”
As Milly grows up, we are treated to her unique personality, which is revealed—along with author Robert Belenky’s flair for humor and surrealism—through a court case. Milly successfully defends herself—after going off to become a lawyer!—against charges of stealing tennis balls. As Milly succinctly puts it, “In conclusion: I say that if a ball is thrown to someone, whether dog or person, it becomes a gift, fair and square. It is then his or hers to chomp on. That is how the world works.”
This legal drama is followed by some interesting questions, “For Intelligent Readers,” that thoughtfully ask readers to reflect on philosophical matters such as, “Does Milly really steal tennis balls?” “If she does, can she still be a good dog?” and “What makes a dog good?”
The final story gives the narrative over to the perspective of Milly’s Grandma, also named Milly, a touching (but not sentimental) treatment of aging and death that concludes with the elderly Milly declaring, “’I am off to the Dog Star to see my mother,’ she said cheerfully as she disappeared into the night.”
The author’s afterword includes a lovely reflection on aging and memory that invokes Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, asking “Is not The Tempest an hallucination in which the sorcerer Prospero has evoked a fantasy world of beauty more real than Shakespeare’s own?” It is a fitting end to a book that is both literary and playful, both revelatory of the human and the canine – an act of magic in itself.
Available Here: Lulu.com
About Robert Belenky
Bob Belenky, born in 1931, has had a long career as a child psychologist. He has worked in school and community mental health and has taught at colleges from Harvard to Goddard. He created a retreat center in a Vermont forest for children and families. Upon retirement, he made numerous visits to both Haiti and Russia in order to learn about children in those countries who are leading especially hard lives. Finally, he has volunteered as a child and family advocate in Vermont courts. He and his wife, Mary, now live at Kendal, a Quaker-based retirement center in New Hampshire.
Dedicated Reviews allow authors and illustrators to gain prompt visibility for their work. The author of ‘Milly: My Life as a Labradoodle…In Five Short Dog Tales,’ by Robert Belenky, sponsored this non-biased review. Learn more about getting a book review …
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