BEL RIA by Sheila Burnford
Kirkus Star


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Will Sheila Burnford repeat the enormous success of The Incredible Journey? Probably not, for Bel Ria, although an intelligent pet in the noble tradition of Luath, Tao, and Bodger, is overshadowed by his caretakers in WW II Europe. A performing dog rescued from a burning caravan, he is whisked away from northern France by Corporal Sinclair, entrusted to icy, punctilious Neil MacLean on board a tanker, and then pampered by aging dowager Alice Tremorne in bombed-out Plymouth. Burnford writes persuasively about the dog and several other animals who have cameo roles, avoiding the sticky winsomeness and leaping heroics common to the genre. Bel's circus antics and even disposition defrost MacLean, rejuvenate Tremorne, and generally delight all who meet him, but he doesn't do excavations or sniff out criminals like TV canines. This gently paced story hasn't the inherent cumulative drama of the wilderness survival tale, and the human transformations of those Bel encounters (less involving than the serial adventures and anticipated reunion in Journey) lack the large dimension--especially the overtones of community--that distinguish the earlier book. But Bel Ria has character as well as rhythm, and some enterprising Disneyite might well capitalize on his performing talents and Burnford's readymade audience.

Pub Date: Jan. 31st, 1977
Publisher: Atlantic/Little, Brown