Darling, a rambunctious family dog, is drafted to serve in the British Army during World War I.
The dog’s-eye view offers a unique look at the lives of both two-footed and four-footed soldiers fighting at the front. Darling, desperate to return home, looks for every opportunity to run away, but when she happens upon a wounded soldier, she also discovers her true calling as a “mercy dog,” searching out soldiers in need. Other dogs in her regiment are trained as messengers, scouts or sentries. Dogs travel with their handlers through France and Belgium toward their ultimate destination: no man’s land. Darling quickly learns the brutality of war, watching dogs and soldiers die on both sides of the battlefield. She notes that the hated Germans are barely older than the children she left behind at home. The simple narrative is detailed but never graphic. Specifics about weapons and geography often outpace a dog’s understanding, but this break in narration is only occasionally distracting. While never shying away from the tragedies of battle, Darling’s story focuses on bravery, sacrifice and devotion. Finely detailed pencil sketches and an afterword explaining the history behind the story are included.
Wartime adventure with plenty of heart. (Historical fiction. 7-10)