The Dog Runner – Bren MacDibble – Allen and Unwin Children’s – Published 4 February 2019
Ella and her brother Emery are alone in a city that’s starving to death. If they are going to survive, they must get away, upcountry, to find Emery’s mum. But how can two kids travel such big distances across a dry, barren, and dangerous landscape? Well, when you’ve got five big doggos and a dry-land dogsled, the answer is you go mushing. But when Emery is injured, Ella must find a way to navigate them through rough terrain, and even rougher encounters with desperate people…
What a superb, beautifully written book. Thought-provoking and action filled, The Dog Runner is an Australian, middle grade novel that is dystopian fiction at its finest. This will be sure to please teen readers and make for a fantastic class novel.
I loved every page of this book. I was a little worried about the dogs. As a dog lover, I don’t usually read books about dogs – I can’t handle any injuries or death. I am very happy to say (any maybe it’s a spoiler, but I think it’s important to share) that aside from a small injury none of the dogs are harmed or die. This book has a dog-happy ending. Can’t say the same for some kangaroos, snakes, possums or other small creatures. For those who don’t like hunting or animal deaths, there are quite a few descriptions of killing and preparing animals for food. It’s done with care, but with details.
MacDibble presents a society and world in which grass crops have all failed and animal farming has been destroyed. People in the cities and suburbs are fighting for food, waiting for deliveries from the government that aren’t coming. People are looting and rioting and gangs are roaming.
Ella, her half-brother Emery, father and mother live in a small apartment along with three dogs. They hide the dogs, as many judge them for having extra mouths to feed when food is already scarce. When Ella’s mother doesn’t return from work and her father goes out to find her and also doesn’t return, Ella and her brother escape their apartment, taking their dogs along with two others, and using a bike sled, set out across the country to try and make it to Emery’s mother’s property.
I love the integration of the Indigenous perspective in this novel. I found it so wonderful to learn a little about Indigenous plants and farming techniques. I want to learn more now. It always amazes and saddens me that there is such knowledge out there, such a wonderful history of caring for the land in ways that work, that isn’t practiced by the majority of famers today. This book is both a warning and a offers a seed of hope. It will make a fantastic starting point for a unit of investigation into Indigenous farming techniques and history.
I loved Ella. She is the main character and narrates the story. If you are looking for a strong female voice, you’ll love Ella. She’s not fearless, but she never gives up. She protects her brother, family and dogs with everything she has in her. She knows how to scavenge for food and she endures the long and hard journey they face.
The Dog Runner is a book about survival, doing what it takes to protect the people and animals you love and a hope for building a better future.
Category: Middle grade fiction
Themes: Dogs, hunger, food shortage, society breakdown, family, guns, hunting, farming, Indigenous farming,
Reading age guide: Ages 10 and up.
Advisory: Killing of animals for food, preparing of animals for food. Guns, death. Murder, fighting, riots, injury.
Representation: White main character, White-indigenous main character, white and indigenous secondary characters. Heterosexual relationships.
Published: 4 February 2019 by Allen & Unwin Children’s.
Format: Paperback, ebook. 248 pages.