Dogtown -- Book Review


Disclosure: I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Do you have pets? Do you adopt them from shelters? We have three shelter cats and a bunny we adopted from a friend. Today I get to share a beautiful book about dogs at a dog shelter. This book has so many different connections and themes. It is a must read for animal lovers! It is an illustrated middle grades novel. The book is Dogtown by Katherine Applegate and Gennifer Choldenko and illustrated by Wallace West. It is recommended for ages 8 to 12. 

From the Publisher:

Now a New York Times bestseller, an Indie bestseller, and an Amazon Best Children's Book of 2023! From beloved authors Katherine Applegate and Gennifer Choldenko and with illustrations from Wallace West, Dogtown is at once an uplifting story and a page-turning adventure, sure to find a forever home in readers’ hearts.

Dogtown is a shelter for stray dogs, misbehaving dogs, and discarded robot dogs, whose owners have outgrown them.

Chance, a real dog, has been in Dogtown since her owners unwittingly left her with irresponsible dog-sitters who skipped town.

Metal Head is a robot dog who dreams of being back in a real home.

And Mouse is a mouse who has the run of Dogtown, pilfering kibble, and performing clever feats to protect the dogs he loves.

When Chance and Metal Head embark on an adventure to find their forever homes, there is danger, cheese sandwiches, a charging station, and some unexpected kindnesses along the way.

From Me: 

This book has many different facets. There is the "competition" the real dogs feel with the robot dogs. Afterall robot dogs don't have to be fed, taken out, and don't get into trouble on their own. They do whatever the human tells them to do. The real dogs at the shelter don't like sharing the space with robot dogs because so many families decide to adopt the robot dogs over the trouble of having a real dog. This facet could be discussed in a class with a conversation about differences, racism, homophobia, etc. I love that the book finds a nonhuman way to discuss differences. 

The book also delves into how the shelter dogs feel. Many came to the shelter from a family, and they truly miss their families. They don't understand what happened and why the family isn't looking for them or why they were left behind. The dogs have little shows they do for prospective new families that visit the shelter. Some get adopted but come back after bad behavior like drinking from the toilet or chewing something important. Others get put on the list which takes them to the dog park in the sky as the narrator dog calls it. 

We meet Chance, a three-legged dog, who roams around the shelter. The humans don't think she will ever be adopted but since she is well liked and seems to be lucky during poker night, she is kept off the list. She has full run of the place and can visit all the dogs. She narrates the story for us and explains shelter life. It isn't until towards the end of the book that we find out her backstory and how she lost her leg. She tries to help all the other real dogs find permanent homes and stay off the list. Through her narration we meet some of the other dogs like Geraldine, Buster, and Bear. We also meet Metal Head, a robot dog who doesn't seem like all the other robot dogs. Metal Head is always reading his manual. 

Metal Head becomes a key player during reading buddies. One boy who struggles with reading picks Metal Head to read with and Metal Head is able to read the book to the boy. This begins to win Chance over. I love that the book includes reading buddies as a program for the dogs and children. 

Chance, Metal Head and Mouse, Chance's bestie that is a mouse, go on an adventure. They escape the shelter, and Metal Head tries to return home. However, the family meant to give him away and don't want him. It is hard for Metal Head to understand or get past, but Chance and Mouse help him. In the end of the book Metal Head helps Chance as well. It is such a sweet book, and I can see kids loving the story especially since it is told in the voice of Chance. 

The book is well written, and the story is one you want to keep reading. It will attract the animal lovers which is just about every child I know. It would be a fun one to read aloud to a class as well. There are many adventures and facets as I said that could lead to interesting discussions. At the end of the book are some ideas for things kids can do to help shelter dogs as well. I love that this book is about helping shelter animals. I hope you will check it out. Also consider donating to your local animal shelter for the holidays!! Or donate to mine. It is a no kill shelter and two of our cats are from there.