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Adult Books 4 Teens
Inside Adult Books 4 Teens

Group Dynamics, Or Every Dog Has Her (His) Day

from graphic novel guest blogger, Francisca Goldsmith:

Among the modern classics teens are set to read as school texts, George Orwell’s Animal Farm resonates with most without rankling. Classrooms across the nation tear the text apart and readers across the nation feel rightfully bright and smug that they get this clever fable, that they have suspected something very similar going on in their own lives.

Mush! is the Farm’s heir, but the political sphere is set aside and instead we are at the level of the neighborhood: there’s the pretty girl (Venus), the not so bright rich kid (Winston), the guy whose crotch rules his mouth and daydreams but who, really, has his scruples together (Buddy), the troublemaker, more schemer than bully (Guy), the plain girl who really gets things done (Dolly), and the kid who seems to live up in his head instead of with the gang (Fiddler). We have the sled dog team’s point of view so thoroughly that, as in Orwell’s masterpiece, we come to identify more with the animals than with the human couple who appear at interludes (although, in the end, they do prove to have a sense of very human humor). When the time comes to go for a run, we are in that whir of kicked up snow as the six pull and run together. Peace breaks down in the dogs’ yard when they converse in pairs. Rumors, misunderstandings, presumptions, and wise words fly and we, like the dogs (who are pretty much acting like teens), root for one dog and then another, depending on the interchange of the moment.

And that is the mark of a great read, no matter how popular: it jumps off the page and into our lives at the same time that we see our lives on that page.

EICHLER, Glenn. Mush!: Sled Dogs with Issues. 120p. First Second. Nov. 2011. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-1-59643-547-8. LC number unavailable.  Mush!

Adult/High School–The half dozen sled dogs comprising Frank’s team in a remote corner of Alaska are a delightfully complex lot. Frank’s own life is as simple as he can make it: he’s irascible when the only other human about–his hard suffering girlfriend or wife–has anything at all to say. That’s fine because Eichler and Infurnari have a story to tell about the dogs, not those under-evolved creatures called humans. Delightfully distinct in appearance and character, the team really is a team only when it is running; during down time, mischief and worse come to roost. Buddy, who has the sexual preoccupation of a 13-year-old boy, lusts after Venus, but he’d be just as content to get it on with the lead dog, Dolly. Guy doesn’t want sex with Dolly; he wants her job. Winston, the only purebred among the pack, can’t figure out when he’s being used by Guy, but Fiddler, the big guy with his brain on existential questions rather than either sex or power, sees right through Guy’s deviousness and Dolly’s lost confidence after a sledding accident. The painterly palette shows the world from the dogs’ viewpoints, with intermittent visits to the dark world of the humans’ cabin. Activities outdoors and in are depicted actively and on the premise that dogs are much more aware of both the weather and their need for activity than are humans.  Perfectly paced and replete with subplots, this is a true graphic-novel companion to Orwell’s Animal Farm: when readers see and hear what the animals are really doing and thinking, they see the roots of many human problems.–Francisca Goldsmith, Infopeople Project, Ca

Angela Carstensen About Angela Carstensen

Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.