Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Shiloh is a poignant, realistic story of a boy and a dog and the circumstances that bring them together. Yet, there is more to the story of Marty Preston, an eleven-year-old who befriends a stray, abused dog. This protagonist is faced with a moral decision when he does not want to return the abused beagle to its rightful but mean owner, Judd Travers. He wants to fulfill the hill country code of honor of not lying, not cheating, and showing respect for others’ rights. The novel is set in the mountains of West Virginia. Although the events could happen in almost any rural area, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor captures the flavor of the area through the rich West Virginia dialect of Marty, the narrator of the story. The tale covers a brief time span and is written in short, fast-paced chapters.

Marty Preston wants a pet, preferably a dog, but his poverty-stricken parents cannot afford another mouth to feed. One Sunday afternoon, Marty is thrilled when a beagle follows him home from the Old Shiloh schoolhouse. His father, aware that Judd Travers, a mean, bewhiskered, tobacco-chewing neighbor recently acquired a new hunting dog, insists that the beagle be returned. Together, Marty and his father take the dog to its owner, who, after kicking it, promises to “whup the daylights out of him” if he wanders off again. As Marty accompanies his father on his mail route, he gathers aluminum cans for recycling money in hopes of offering to buy Shiloh, the name...

(The entire section is 600 words.)