Throughout reading Joe Friedman’s The Secret Dog, I wanted to urge his main character Josh to actually talk to the adults, and especially to his uncle Calum, and then everything would – probably – sort itself out. But I realised that this is no way to get a book out of a situation.
Josh, who has just started secondary school, was orphaned as a small boy, and came to live with his mum’s much older brother Calum on a Scottish island (which I believe is meant be Skye, although it’s not named). Calum is a crofter with not much money but plenty of work, so if he is fairly hard on Josh, it’s only because he has to be.
Animals are Josh’s main love, and he likes rescuing wild animals, nursing them back to health. He’d love a pet of his own, but there is no money for that, so when Josh finds an abandoned border collie puppy, he knows he needs to keep the dog a secret from his uncle.
His solution is to train the dog to work as a sheepdog, which isn’t easy to do under any circumstances. There are many obstacles to deal with, from illness to bullies. Josh makes friends with the local vet’s daughter, but is also bullied by one of the boys at school, who in turn is bullied by his father, who is a really unpleasant character.
This is a wonderful story about a boy’s determination and very hard work to make his dream come true. It’s about standing up to bullies, and knowing when to stop. And it’s yet another book showing us how important libraries are.