Release Date: July 1, 2014
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
ARC Source: Shelf Awareness
While not specifically designated as YA, Haatchi and Little B (based on a true story) could definitely fit into that category as many teenagers would love this story of a boy and his dog. For adult readers, the book speaks to new relationships and acceptance, of being a parent, and of being courageous. It takes a lot for a book to be accessible to such a wide range of readers, but that is where this book finds its success.
Haatchi is an Anatolian Shepherd who was hit over the hit and left for dead on the railroad tracks in London, England. After being hit by a train, Haatchi partially loses a leg and most of his tail. He is rescued and undergoes surgery where he must learn to walk with three legs and communicate without his tail. After trying to stay in one home and causing too much trouble (as many dogs will), Haatchi is sent back to the vet. Eventually, the big, lovable dog makes his way into the home of Owen (or Little B as called by his stepmother Colleen) where he forever changes Owen’s life.
Owen is a young boy who suffers from a rare genetic disorder where his muscles constantly remain tensed. At five (at the beginning of the book) and largely confined to his wheelchair, Owen becomes more reclusive and anti-social as he realizes that he is not like other kids. He can’t run or play, and kids say that he’s different. Owen is happiest at home, away from the general public.
His mother Kim and his father Will are both in the armed forces and each take turns on tours for months at a time. After seeing the strain put onto their relationship from being apart, Kim and Will decide to separate. Kim, admitting that Will is the better parent, sacrifices her role as mother and leaves Owen to be raised by Will.
After awhile, Will tries online dating where he meets Colleen, who is an avid dog lover. They quickly fall in love, and Owen seems to approve, so it’s not long before they marry. Realizing they want to rescue a dog, Colleen sees an ad for Haatchi in the paper. She knows there’s something special about him, so she and Will arrange to adopt him, and Haatchi’s presence in the house changes Owen forever.
As an English teacher who likes to over-analyze everything, I could sit and pick apart any book, but with this one, there doesn’t need to be anything more than the authentic details of the story. For those who complain about imagery, or the lack thereof, you have to realize that the story of Haatchi and Owen is the focus here, and I don’t believe Wendy Holden wanted to tell anything other than the truth. Anyone who takes the time to write a humanizing story deserves credit for wanting to warm the hearts of readers and bring awareness to a disease such as Schwartz-Jampel syndrome. This book doesn’t need to be closely read for similes and metaphors to understand its message for advocacy of both animals and humans.