As many of you know, I began blogging partly because I used to review children’s books for a large publishing house and write teacher resources to go with them, so I am very fond of reading what are frequently brilliant stories for younger readers. As a result, I’d like to say an enormous thanks to publicist Ruth Killick for sending me a copy of the middle grade children’s book The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble in return for an honest review.
Out in paperback from Old Barn Books on 2nd May 2019, The Dog Runner is available for purchase here.
The Dog Runner
A wild and thrilling middle-grade adventure with an important environmental message, set in an all-too-possible dystopian future Australia.
After a fungus has wiped out the all-important grasses on which most of our foodstuff are based, Ella and her brother Emery are alone in a city that’s starving to death. If they are going to survive, they must get away, upcountry, to find Emery’s mum. But how can two kids travel such big distances across a dry, barren and dangerous landscape? Their dogs take them sledding back to the origins of humanity on the continent and a way to preserve its future.
My Review of The Dog Runner
With anarchy growing and society in meltdown, Ella’s family is being torn apart.
What an absolutely fabulous children’s story. I was gripped by Bren Mac Dibble’s The Dog Runner from start to finish. I thought it was a brilliant touch to begin the narrative with Ella borrowing Golding’s Lord of the Flies from her neighbour because themes of societal breakdown represented here echo Golding’s in an all too real possibility in today’s world. I loved the way Ella is desperate for reading material too because it gives status to an activity many youngster avoid.
In The Dog Runner, not only does the reader encounter a stark possibility for the future as we unbalance the world and its resources, but themes of loyalty, what constitutes family, the almost primeval bond between humans and dogs, love and identity (including ethnic and social) are all there to be contemplated. There is such depth to The Dog Runner that it would make a sensational class reader for children aged 9-13, but I’d like to see as many adults as possible read it too because there is a warning here for us all as well as a superbly compelling narrative.
Themes aside, The Dog Runner has a brilliant plot told at a cracking pace. It’s disconcerting, exciting and actually quite scary so that I found it impossible to put down. I had to know what happened next. I loved the concept that, although she’s young and female, Bella learns to use her wits as young readers will come to realise self belief and determination goes a long way in success. Bella is a super role model for all children.
The overall quality of the writing is so impressive too because the author never patronises her readers. There is just the right level of implied and explicit threat and violence to engage and entertain. She uses vivid and eloquent descriptions of both the environment and the characters, including the dogs, so that there is quite a cinematic feel to the read, making it exciting and vivid. I could imagine the settings so clearly as a result of the atmospheric writing.
I feel that today’s youngsters have such wonderful stories written especially for them and that Bren Mac Dibble’s The Dog Runner ranks among the very best. I recommend it most highly as a brilliant, cautionary and ultimately uplifting story.
About Bren MacDibble
Bren MacDibble was raised on farms all over New Zealand, but had been living in Melbourne, Australia, for twenty years until a wildfire destroyed her home and all her possessions. After rebuilding the house, Bren realised she was no longer attached to material things and now lives and works in a bus travelling around Australia. Her two novels to date have made her a rapidly rising star of Australian children’s literature, with the wellbeing of the earth and its future generations at the heart of her compelling writing.