Title: Along Came a Dog
Author: Meindert DeJong
Major Themes: Farm Life, Dogs, Chickens, Children’s Readers
Synopsis: The big black dog came along just in time to protect the little red hen who lost her toes over the winter, but will the man ever recognize his worth and allow him to stay?
I had to wonder, before I started reading Along Came a Dog with my boys, if they would enjoy it or if they would think it was too boring. There isn’t a very strong plot to it, but it is a delightful story. As it turned out, however, they all loved it. I am guessing that is because they could relate so well to the subject, since we have always lived on a farm and had chickens.
The story opens one day in early spring when a man lets his flock of chickens out of the coop for the first time. As his favorite, a little red hen in a large flock of white hens, steps into the mud at the bottom of the plank, her toes come off. The man realizes that it got too cold in the coop during the winter, and starts planning how he can transform the basement of the old barn into a hen house, where they will be warmer. At the same time, a big black dog shows up, quietly and meekly searching a place to stay. The man takes him away in his car and tries to get rid of him, but every time, the dog finds his way back. He appoints himself as protector to the little red hen, and learns how to hide from the man. When he is caught in the hen house with egg on his face, however, he is taken away and dumped in the city. It takes him so long to find his way back that the little red hen nearly dies.
Along Came a Dog is a masterful picture of farm life from Meindert DeJong, the author of The Wheel on the School. His skill at description is wonderful! I appreciated the fact that he shows chickens as they are, too—not very smart, and always ready to turn on each other. We did notice an inaccuracy in the last chapter, though. I won’t give away the ending of the story to tell you about it, because it isn’t that important—just something that a farm child might pick up on.
WARNING: Occasionally the man uses a word or two that we don’t approve of. I just marked them out with an ink pen as we read it.
Listening Level—Ages 5 – 8, 8 – 12
Reading Independently—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12