Sunday 12 August 2018

The dog with seven names

The dog with seven names by Dianne Wolfer, (Random House) PB RRP $16.99 ISBN: 9780143787457

Reviewed by Pauline Hosking

A puppy is born on a cattle station in the Pilbara. The runt of the litter, she is cared for by Elsie, the daughter of the station owner, and receives her first name – Princess. In February 1942, with the Japanese air raids moving closer, the family leave the Pilbara and go south for safety leaving Princess in the care of a kind drover. Later Princess (now named Flynn) flies with the Flying Doctor Service and stays in Port Hedland hospital, calming and giving courage to those hurt and in danger. The little golden-eyed dog, a cross between an Australian terrier and a dingo, has many adventures and is renamed many times before reuniting with Elsie.

The book gives well-researched information about the Japanese raids on Darwin, Wyndham and Broome. There’s also mention of the secret airstrip constructed at Corunna Downs by the US Army.

Events are related by Princess in the first person. According to Dianne Wolfer’s acknowledgements, The dog with seven names was one of two creative works accompanying research into anthropomorphism in Australian children’s literature. While much of what Princess recounts seems in keeping with a doggy view of the world, some of her wider understanding of places and events is problematic. However, this will not worry young readers who will enjoy the tale of a cute and brave animal in a time of war.

The author supplies a detailed timeline connecting World War II events to the story and some pages of additional historical information. These make the book a valuable classroom resource for students studying recent Australian History.

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