Title: ShilohShiloh
Author: Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Pages: 144
Reading Level: 9-12
Star Rating: ★★

A Newbery winner.

The Story.

Marty Preston is a boy who dislikes violence – he’d much rather shoot at an overripe apple than a squirrel – and longs to have a pet. Then he meets Shiloh.

Shiloh’s a scraggly little beagle – scared of his own shadow – but he seems to like Marty. Marty knows that the only reason he’s so skittish is because he’s been mistreated by his owner, Judd Traverse. So, when Shiloh escapes from Judd and makes his way to Marty’s home, Marty decides that Shiloh will never return to the abuse and pain of his former master. No, Marty will build a cage for Shiloh and protect him from Judd. This means that he will also have to keep the secret from his parents. But Shiloh is worth it!

Discussion.

When Marty meets Shiloh, he instantly pities the dog. He dislikes the fact that it is being cruelly used by its owner. He wants the dog for himself. This also seems to be the dog’s wish, who follow Marty home on several occasion.

His parents tell Marty to take Shiloh back whenever he appears, but Marty disobeys. He decides that he will keep Shiloh at all costs. So, he builds a small cage up on the hill and keeps Shiloh there. Even though he knows they only have enough food to feed themselves and their livestock, he nevertheless slips food out to Shiloh on a daily basis. He lies to his parents about how he’s been spending his time. He lies to his sister and friends in order to keep them from discovering Shiloh. In short, he forsakes all principles for the sake of the dog.

In the end, he is found out. He and Judd agree that Marty can have the dog after completing twenty hours of work for him. Now, at first, I thought, “Marty’s reforming! He’s recognized that he can’t just waltz in and steal Judd’s dog, regardless of how Judd is treating him. He’s learning principles!” but then I realized that Marty was just operating on the same level that he’d acted the for the whole book – he was being pragmatic. If it works to steal the dog, steal it. If it works to work for the dog, then work. The only thing that matters is getting Shiloh. The rest is unimportant. Here are a few of the befuddling conclusions he arrives at.

“A lie don’t seem a lie anymore when it’s meant to save a dog, and right and wrong’s all mixed up in my head.” [pg. 70]

Jesus,” I whisper finally, “which you want me to do? Be one hundred percent honest and carry that dog back to Judd so that one of your creatures can be kicked and starved all over again, or keep him here and fatten him up to glorify your creation?”

The question seemed to answer itself, and I’m pretty proud of that prayer. Repeat it to myself so’s to remember it in case I need to use it again. If Jesus is anything like the story cards from Sunday school make him out to be, he ain’t the kind to want a thin, little beagle hurt. [pg. 57]

Marty bases his judgments on his faulty impressions of Jesus from picture cards rather than the Holy Scriptures. Here is another piece of fanaticism.

“I don’t feel good about the lies I tell Dara Lynn or David or his ma. But don’t feel exactly bad, neither. If what Grandma Preston told me once about heaven and hell is true, and liars go to hell, then I guess that’s where I’m headed. But she also told me that only people are allowed in heaven, not animals. And if I was to go to heaven and look down to see Shiloh left below, head on his paws, I’d run away from heaven sure.” [pg. 73]

Marty and his siblings watch TV several times.

‘H—’, ‘d—’, and ‘dang’ are each used twice (all fully spelled). ‘Jesus’ is used four times, ‘heck’ and ‘God’ once each.

Conclusion. There are far better pet stories to be found.

Review © 2013 Laura Verret

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