Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Book Review: Haatchi and Little B (dog, child)

Haatchi* & Little B: The inspiring true story of one boy and his dog, by Wendy Holden (St. Martin’s Press, 2014, 216 pages, $22.99)

Big Dog, Little Boy, Big Hearts

Little B, a little boy with an eternal smile due to crinkly eyes and a pouty mouth due to a rare genetic syndrome**, will steal your heart away. Haatchi, the Anatolian Shepherd pup who lost a leg plus his tail to a train but never lost his spirit of forgiveness and love, will also steal your heart. The dog is as big as the boy (see the cover photo)! But their hearts are even bigger.

Each one, boy and dog, has his own physical challenges: the bravery of the dog helps the boy face his own condition and, like Cowboy (read the review of Cowboy and Wills), brings out the boy’s personality. Both Cowboy and Haatchi are a magnet for people coming up and befriending the boy – being able to talk about your dog gives one courage to face the world if one is shy or otherwise challenged.

Of course, the book opens with the near demise of a puppy to whet your appetite but it keeps your attention throughout this amazing story that even today is unfolding. Author Wendy Holden also includes the Internet romance and RAF deployments to Afghanistan to add to the universality of the story.

Which one is Little B?

When five-year-old Owen’s future stepmother first met him, being from New Zealand she exclaimed, “Hello, mate. Happy Birthday, little buddy. Can I sit next to you?” And so, Owen became Little Buddy and Little Buddy became Little B.


This simply amazing little family, even in the midst of their own time-consuming medical and financial challenges, also helps raise funds for other child-related and canine rescue causes – what an inspiration for all of us! They have so little to give but give it all: such generosity surely begets more.

I’d like to see a version of Haatchi for children, perhaps without the details of Haatchi’s train accident, though it could be told in a gentle way to educate on responsible dog ownership.

Photos and Lists

Two sections of photos in the book will simply draw you back again and again. And Little B’s stepmom is a clever, entertaining writer as she populates Facebook pages with Haatchi’s humorous canine thoughts. My favorite photo is of  the family wedding, complete with dog (every wedding photo should include a dog, don’t you think?)

A gem not to be overlooked is the glossary of Haatchi-isms with their definitions, some of which may become part of your family’s vocabulary. I especially like BOL (Bark Out Loud, similar to LOL, laugh out loud) and Huggles (Haatchi Hugs).

Holden also gives us a contact list of UK and US animal advocacy and children’s organizations we may want to support, such as Dogs and Kisses, Make a Wish, and the well-known RSPCA and ASPCA.

Holden’s Writing Style

Yes, sometimes it is the story that counts. Yes, you may cry a little at the unforgettable stories in Haatchi - at learning how Haatchi came into Little B’s family and at the many incidents that bring joy and well-deserved honors.

Holden is also the author of Uggie – My Story (read review here) and Haatchi gradually morphs into the dry, reporting style of the former: however, the first half of Haatchi is definitely worth a trip to your local independent bookstore or public library.

Readers in the US may not yet have heard of Haatchi and Little B – dog and boy live in England, as does the author, and, like nearly all British books, the mention of media personalities and certain vocabulary words fall flat on this side of the pond. Fortunately, the reader may be familiar with the Duchess of York and Rupert Grint (a friend of Harry Potter’s), as well as Dogs Today magazine and Crufts (like our Westminster Dog Show – read more about it here).

In Summary – a quick, inspiring read.

*I took the liberty of capitalizing words here. The title actually has no capital letters in it.

**Schwarz-Jampel syndrome (SJS) is a rare recessive genetic disorder named only as recently as 1962 and affecting perhaps 100 persons worldwide. Little B is the only SJS person in the UK.

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