Review by Tabsley
When a naïve puppy’s favorite human goes missing, he decides to leave the safety of his family pen to track him down and bring him home. However, this seemingly simple decision sets in motion a whirlwind-paced plot full of intrigue, colorful worlds, and a delightful cast of characters.
Shaune Lafferty Webb’s Once a Dog begins with its focus on Jessie B. Collie. He’s young and completely unfamiliar with the world around him. Terms that humans have ready names for are described in a very simple way (a personal favorite example is the lack of the word "cat," instead opting for the much more appropriate "scratch-and-spit"). His world is small and simple, and he is content. Much like the classic narrative from The Wizard of Oz, this sepia-toned farmscape soon gets blown away, leaving Jessie to try and find his way through a fantastical world full of new friends, new rules, and the realization that not everyone is as friendly as they seem to be.
Overall, Once a Dog is well written. The settings are wonderfully imagined and fully realized, and that really helps bring this narrative to life. Additionally, the cover art by Lew Viergacht is absolutely wonderful. One minor gripe I had while reading this book was with the pacing. While the characters that Jessie B. Collie meets along his journey definitely have their own quirks, and are each memorable, the speed at which the narrative is moving left me craving a bit more development. What this pace does allow for, though, is to let the reader watch Jessie grow and mature as a character. The importance of life, and the gaining of experiences, is a running theme that, as an older reader, I can definitely appreciate.
No matter what your age is (and even if you’re more of a cat person), you can find something to enjoy about Once a Dog. It’s a fun, occasionally poignant adventure that called back to a few of the classic Don Bluth animations I enjoyed as a kid. It’s definitely worth a read!