Girl with a White Dog quietly and confidently delivers its message in plain sight, yet never over-dramatically. Author Anne Booth’s choice to refuse the heights of drama in this tale, preferring to use a first person narrative by a year nine (age 13 to 14) student makes for a sensitive account of how it feels to be the object of prejudice.
Drama is not totally lacking of course. The main drama is left to the denouement, when Jessie (the young protagonist) finally learns the meaning of her grandmother’s strange statements and behaviours. Until then, even the box of old photos she’s discovered, a familiar trope in many novels, hasn’t told all, and she’s respectfully left the old letters unopened. Although the Reader’s interest has been alerted that there’s a mystery!
Along the way, we meet several of Jessie’s friends, relatives, and acquaintances. And we experience her learning about the feelings of being a recipient of prejudice, both as she witnesses prejudicial behaviour towards others, and notices her own attitudes, and discovers a family secret.
Anne Booth, the author, has created a believable world of home, school, and village, grounded in place and time. Throughout Jessie’s search for information about her Gran, the family and other characters form both a secure background and a contrast to Jessie’s own life, giving a good portrait of early teenage experiences at a time when having a dependable family to return to can encourage forays into the world beyond the familiar. Jessie’s daily life of school and the ups and downs of friendship continue as a backdrop to her search for Gran’s secret past, her efforts to understand and accept the apparently negative behaviour of others whom she cares about, and her developing strong attachment to a boy who has always been there as part of her world.
When Gran’s childhood experiences are revealed and explained, as part of the wider history of our world, they are not the only learning experience which Jessie has encountered over the time of the story, they bring with them some interesting points about prejudice, and point of view.
As an adult reader, I feel this is a must-read for today’s teenagers, and indeed for today’s grown-ups. In the present political climate of the world it is a very timely tale.
Note: About the author: Anne Booth writes children’s and YA books, giving, with a light touch, an informative age-appropriate slant on society. She is passionate about inclusion and has experience as a speaker to schoolchildren about her books, and mum to 4 now grown-up children, including twins …Her first grown-up novel is due for publication in 2022.