I don’t know if you’ve noticed but I am attracted to the quirky. Novels about talking squirrels, friendships with baby moose or hitmen who contract religion, they are all my kind of thing, so a slim little book by a Korean author whose main character is a dog, well, how could I resist. Especially when I realised it was another book by the same writer who’d written the one about the chicken who wanted to fly. Like I say – quirky…
The main character in this story is a dog named Scraggly who is owned by Grandpa Screecher (so-called because he is forever shouting at Scraggly, her mother and litter-mates) and his wife Grandma. We see her being spurned by her dog family, and looked down on by many humans, because she is so different looking to the other dogs. But, as we find out, she is the only one of her litter which Grandpa Screecher names and she is a favourite with the grandson, Dongi. She is an unusual looking dog too – a reversion to her Sapsal ancestors (a traditional Korean dog breed) – and is made to feel ugly and unloved because of this. Scraggly has a tough life, her family and her own puppies are all taken away from her, she knows pain and hunger and, the saddest part, she even has a phase where she is angry with Grandpa. Her life is hard, but so is her master’s – we just hear less of this because we hear it all from the dog’s point of view.
This is the story of a dog named Scraggly but it is also a fable or parable which makes you consider all kinds of things. Family, love, survival when nothing seems to go your way, self-image and friendship – all these subjects crossed my mind in the course of 170 odd pages. There are delicate illustrations throughout which just enhance the experience – I shall be looking out for more books by this rather wise and philosophical author.