In Ibbotson’s final book, all 10-year-old Hal Fenton has ever wanted is a dog of his own, but his wealthy, shallow parents think a brief dog-rental will resolve his yearning.
Every aspect of the Fenton household’s appearance is perfect, and a dog is an unwelcome addition. Mr. Fenton rents Fleck, a white mutt inappropriately placed at the Easy Pets agency, run by the evil Carkers, a couple interested only in making money. Fortunately for the 50 purebred dogs they rent out, gentle, impoverished Kayley runs the kennel. Bereft after his parents slyly return Fleck to the agency, Hal steals the dog and sets out for his grandparents’ cottage in the north of England. He’s joined unexpectedly by a motley gang of five other kennel escapees and Kayley’s kind-hearted younger sister, Pippa, who has released them. In a series of remarkably fortunate encounters, the dogs’ sagacious skills help the children on their perilous journey. Characters are painted with a broad brush; they are either very, very good or quite nasty, although some of the latter, like Hal’s parents, have the opportunity for atonement. The amusing hyperbole Ibbotson employs to great effect turns this pet story into a classic Dahl-like adventure.
A rousing, slightly surreal tale of rescue and redemption, this effort will appeal to animal lovers everywhere. (Adventure. 9-14)