A 1959 Newbery Honor book, Along Came a Dog by Meindert DeJong is a simple story of unlikely friendship. Most of the action is between animals; therefore, there is little dialog. But despite the slower pace to the story, the author creates a moving tale of friendship and support that I really enjoyed reading.
On a small farm, the little red hen, the only poultry survivor of an attack the previous year, has lost her toes during the cold winter. She therefore cannot grip on to the ramp out of the chicken house, and the other chickens, out of instinct, want to peck her to death. The farmer is beside himself, wondering how he will keep her safe, because he has developed affection for the little red hen. As the title of the book indicates, a dog came along and hung out around the barn, unbeknownst to the farmer. Through the summer, the dog and the little red hen work together to remain on the small farm.
This friendship is tried in many ways, but is especially difficult for the clever dog, who must remain out of sight of the farmer, who does not want him there. As the story progresses, I felt a similar fondness for the little red hen and the dog. I loved how the story came together in the end!
In this era of fast-paced action, comics, potty humor, rudeness, and violence in children’s shows and books, Along Came a Dog can be easily looked over. I do not know how children of today would react to the story, in which none of the animals or the farmer have names. But for me, it was a great example of how realistic children’s literature can be: sincere and wholesome. There is violence and action in the story, that of the chickens and hawks, but overall, it is a book of friendship and bravery.
I am so pleased to have discovered it. I believe it was well deserving of the 1959 Newbery Honor.