The children of Dublin chase down the Black Dog of depression in order to retrieve the city’s funny bone.
Doyle’s affection for Dublin underlies every moment in this fey, extended chase scene. When Gloria and Raymond’s beloved uncle comes to live with them “for a while,” they struggle to understand what’s wrong. It does seem possible, as their granny says, that the Black Dog has stolen Dublin’s funny bone. Setting out to find the Dog, they are joined by others: children whose parents, siblings, uncles, and aunts suffer from depression. They recruit a neighbor who has a job as a vampire—Ernie’s skills of gliding and leaping prove useful in their quest—and are joined by others. At last, thousands of Dublin’s children are on the tail of the Black Dog. Though they are defeated at moments by its fanged word “USELESS” spoken to their hearts, they fight back with another word: brilliant. Though the story is perhaps slightly short on plot, the run through the city is nevertheless uplifting and physical: a tribute to doing rather than waiting. There’s not a hint of despair, though sadness, economic disruption, and returns from far-off wars are acknowledged. Instead, there’s humor and determination. Talking animals support the children—especially charming is the zoo’s chatty meerkat Kevin. And there is a deep fondness for Dublin and its iconic landmarks.
Hopeful and surprisingly exhilarating. (Fantasy. 8-12)