Scraggly is an unusual dog. It looks different than her siblings, with her long fur and different colour, and her mum doesn’t seem to treat her right either because of that. A little pup is an outsider – a curious and brave one, however: underestimated by everybody, she proves her courage and big heart when she fights a man who tries to kidnap her family. From the beginning of her life on the farm with her master Grandpa Screecher, the dog faces many challenges, learns to deal with problems that life brings her, and meets friends (and enemies!) in her yard and in the village.
It’s a second book for Sun-mi Hwang to be published in English – The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly was an international bestseller with over two million copies sold and was made into an animation in South Korea, breaking the box office record. The Dog Who Dared To Dream is another heartfelt story – one of those which you can never get too old for. If you love The Little Prince and the universal dimension of the fables, then you definitely should give this book a chance.
The story is a fantastic tale on its own that resonates well even in a different language thanks to Chi-Young Kim’s translation. Vivid images of the environments that Scraggly roams around speak to readers’ imagination, and lively language brings the characters to life, from the moody cat, dogs marking their territory to cheeky Sister-in-Law. But it’s the metaphors that hide behind the fable that make it so moving: the story of a beautiful friendship between a dog and a human and the challenges that Scraggly faces teach us about friendships, losses, courage, and optimism. The book will make you smile to the pages and shed a tear or two, bringing the happiness and sadness to you in waves, just like in real life; it’s so engaging that it made me jump on the bus (instead of my normal tube route) just so that I could finish it in one go.
Sun-Mi Hwang anthropomorphises a dog, giving her thoughts, dreams, longings and aspirations – suddenly, it becomes a story of changes and important decisions. In its power it can be even compared to George Orwell’s Animal Farm: although it tells us more about personal lives than the entire class society, it speaks volumes about daily things and, particularly, a role of woman in the current world. Scraggly doesn’t miss out on girl-power: when she gets into a fight and another dog comes to the rescue, she reacts in urging to bite him when he comments that he had never seen a female fighting so bravely. “Just because she was a female didn’t mean that she should stand by meekly and get beaten up,” the author writes.
It’s worth mentioning that a Japanese illustrator Nomoco, based in London, have prepared beautiful illustrations for Abacus’s edition. Bright and delicate artwork of also adds to the first impression: we’ll be roaming with a long-haired black dog around delicate persimmon trees.
The Dog Who Dared To Dream is a comment on society: the narrator talks about people’s unfair judgements, being different to the others and having enough optimism and self-belief to push ahead, bullying, dealing with losing the loved ones, friendships and motherhood. Although the main character is a dog, and a book is simple enough to be read by a child, it belongs to the category where Antoine Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince and classic Disney films belong to: the books that never get too old for a conscious adult.