There is always a story to how you found a book. Sometimes it is epic. And sometimes, you go into a library to donate a book in the memory of a former coworker, ask the librarian where the adult graphic novels are, then go into the young adult section and even though you work in a bookstore, you leave with three books (down from five since you know you can come back).
Dogs of War was one of those three. A graphic novel about dogs of war? That seemed like an interesting task to take on. After all, how do you do war without using the “blood, guts and gore” route? Is it going to be sad? Because as much as people love dogs, they are “just equipment” (as the Vietnam story mentions); therefore, expendable. Also, one of my high school English teachers served with Military intelligence and was trained with a dog. And he told us due to the dog’s job, the dog did not “come home” and why.
What came instead of a sad story was a book with complex illustrations by Nathan Fox. These very busy (sometimes too busy) pieces of art create the story in images that captures the feeling of Sheila Keenan’s text. While everything seems to blend together at times, and lack of color does not help make anything stand out, you can see the stories of Loki looking for the Germans or Boots chasing rats at The Western Front or Sheba looking for VC unfolding.
The text is accessible to strong 10 to 14-year-olds. Adults too, can enjoy these based on true stories about three wars and three dogs who served along with the soldiers. World War I mercy dogs, like Boots, found the men left for dead among the dead. Loki was sled dog at an Artic base, which was perfect for planes to fly over to get to Europe or easily have soldiers “goose stepping” in Maine (as one gruff argent mentions). And Sheba helped sniff out snipers, booby traps and trip wires.
The afterwards gives more information about the dogs that served in wars. Yet, I do wonder how “kid friendly” they made it, especially the Vietnam one (some facts do not fit with the above English teachers’ story). Yet, this book is a good book for people who like dogs or history or just looking for something a little different from their usual reading.