Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Along Came a Dog, by Meindert De Jong, is a Newbery Honor Book that tells the story of a lonely stray dog who is determined to have a home. He devotes himself to protecting a hen who is the farmer’s favorite and who has recently lost her toes because of the frost. The man, Joe, repeatedly tries to “lose” the dog by driving him away from the farm, but the dog persists in his quest and quietly guards the hen throughout the long nights and while she broods under a willow tree. De Jong portrays the farm as a small community of one man and some animals who finally manage to trust one another.

The story is simple and at times exciting. The hen is often in danger because of her lack of toes, and the dog must be careful not to be seen by Joe. The illustrations by Maurice Sendak add to the text and help young readers visualize the story. The desperate wish of the dog to find a home is easy to relate to, whether the reader enjoys a stable family environment or struggles with a broken home, and the hen’s need to fit into the flock is universal as well.

The Little Red Hen is Joe’s favorite animal because she was the only chicken to survive an attack by wild dogs the year before. The new flock is white, but Joe holds the red hen dear. Unfortunately, when her toes freeze off, Joe is not able to protect her from the frenzied attacks of the flock that come because of her strange appearance and gait. She must fend for herself until the dog...

(The entire section is 402 words.)