Pontacoloni (The Adventures of Firstyr the Younger, 2008) offers a fable about the rise of an underdog in hunting dog competitions.
One summer in the 1950s, Tom Quinn travels to North Dakota to train with Duke Arness, a man well-versed in the sport of canine field trials, which involve pointer dogs locating wild game. Duke’s son, Buck, and his friend Charlie often give Tom a hard time—but he holds his ground and learns all he can from Duke. Tom goes on to become a field trial champion himself until a fateful accident leaves him with a broken hip; he then stops competing but continues as a dog trainer. Decades later, 16-year-old Mike Storey becomes acquainted with Tom and soon takes an interest in the sport. The only problem is that Mike’s dog, Rooster, isn’t a pointer—he’s a funny-looking Spinone pup, labeled by others as “that ‘orange mongrel dog.’ ” Tom also doubts Rooster’s potential as a field-trialer, but once he sees that the dog has a knack for it, he takes Mike under his wing to help them become champions. The story comes full circle when the two eventually compete against Tom’s childhood foes, Buck and Charlie, and their menacing dog, Red Eyes. What makes this novel such an engaging read is Pontacoloni’s ability to transport readers into the story with lucid details, a mix of realistic and fanciful narration, and a pervading tone of reminiscence, as if the author is telling a captivating tale around the campfire. Readers may find it slightly difficult to keep track of all the characters at the beginning, but things become clearer as Pontacoloni fully develops the different players. The plot will be most engaging to those who are already familiar with field trials, but others will find that they quickly make sense of the sport as the story goes along.
Delightful, inviting storytelling that will effectively immerse readers in the world of field trials.