Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 199
Dorp Dead, besides being taut and original, has guts and danger, a danger that possibly many a tender-hearted eleven-and twelve-year-old could not endure…. Certainly there is no niceness here. The treatment of brutality has nothing of the objectivity found in fairy tales…. The brutality in Dorp Dead is subjective, very slow, psychotic.
Throughout most of the book, the villain, Kobalt, thoroughly enjoys his sadistic treatment of both boy and dog—poor Mash, who he says must "learn to die"—but, of course, Kobalt is surely insane, and in the name of insanity one can go to any lengths one pleases entirely without motivation. Many of the teen-agers who are enthusiastic about the book are possibly in rebellion against the contrived, shallow rubbish of the average teenage fiction and feel a sense of identity with Gilly, who broke out of an emotional cage as well as a physical one when he escaped from the house in which he was imprisoned. (pp. 210-11)
Eleanor Cameron, in her The Green and Burning Tree: On the Writing and Enjoyment of Children's Books (copyright © 1962, 1964, 1966, 1969 by Eleanor Cameron; reprinted by permission of Little, Brown and Co. in association with The Atlantic Monthly Press), Atlantic-Little, Brown, 1969.