A book I read with my heart in my mouth and tears in my eyes, this is undoubtedly one of the most thought-provoking stories I’ve ever read.
Jack’s initially excited about the Year 6 school trip to France. They’re planning to visit the D-Day landing beaches and learn about the heroes of the war. However, before they leave, Jack finds out information that changes his view of war. In his research he reads about the dogs who parachuted behind enemy lines and one case sticks in his mind. On 6th June 1944, Emile Corteil parachuted into France with his dog, Glen. They’d been training for a long time but, when it came to the moment to jump, Glen was too freaked by the sound of the fighting below and had to be physically thrown from the plane. Thinking of his own dog, Finn, Jack finds the idea repulsive and no longer wants to go on the trip. His parents finally persuade him to go and Jack begins the journey to France and to a better understanding of what war means.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Tom Palmer’s First World War story from Barrington Stoke – Armistice Runner – that was published in time for the centenary of the November 1918 armistice. That book effectively used a modern-day narrator to hook readers into a moving historical story and I was intrigued to see whether Tom Palmer would be able to provide an equally gripping Second World War story.
D-Day Dog has many of the same elements as Armistice Runner. For example, the story is inspired by remarkable real-life events and the use of a Year 6 boy as the central character again makes the story immediately relevant to the modern reader. Both books also brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes.
D-Day Dog, however, had an extra impact because it set me thinking, debating the right and wrongs of war. Indeed, I’m writing this review several days after finishing the book, and the questions raised in the book around the causes and costs of war have stayed with me. I suspect this is because Tom Palmer never gives us the answer and we, like Jack, have to decide for ourselves based on the information presented.
While the core of the narrative is about paratrooper Emile Corteil and his loyal paradog Glen on D-Day, we are given information on three other conflicts. First, we have Jack’s dad, an army reserve who has been called up to serve in Afghanistan. Jack’s dad is excited by the prospect of serving his country but his mum is understandably horrified by the prospect. Then there is Jack’s classmate and friend, Kasandra – a refugee from Syria who is still coming to terms with leaving her home and losing members of her family and her beloved dogs in Aleppo. In a particularly poignant moment in the book, she shares her wish that others had united to help her country in the same way the Allies rallied to liberate France in the Second World War. Finally, there is the driver on the coach trip to France who shares with Jack his experience of fighting in the Falklands War. It’s testament to Tom Palmer’s skill as a writer that all these potentially complex threads to the story are described in a way that makes it entirely suitable for inclusion in Barrington Stoke’s super-readable series. (In case you’re not aware, Barrington Stoke focus on super-readable dyslexia-friendly books that use clear well-spaced font and off-white paper to improve accessibility.)
Overall, this has to be one of the most thought-provoking stories I’ve ever read. I’m confident teachers across the country will find this a useful aid in history lessons but, more than this, it’s a truly wonderful middle-grade book.
If you enjoyed this, I’d recommend you read Armistice Runner by Tom Palmer. Alternatively, if you’re looking for another Second World War story inspired by true events, why not try An Eagle in the Snow by Michael Morpurgo or the now classic War Horse by Michael Morpurgo.
Publication date: May 2019
Publisher: Conkers (Barrington Stoke)
Author: Tom Palmer