Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Friday, January 23, 2015

An unforgettable lesson - Honey the Dixie Dingo Dog: Champion of the Strays by Allen Paul

"What an amazing journey for sweet Honey ! This book had me from the first page ! Very well written and is sure to please any dog lover . It definitely tugs at the heart . I find the American Dingo/ Carolina Dog fascinating and wish more people had knowledge of these wonderful dogs . My 12 year old son , Camden , read the book as well . He enjoyed it too and it is a good read for pre-teens also!" - Amazon


Bestselling and award-winning author Allen Paul has created an endearing character in Honey, a swamp dog who gets rescued at the moment she's about to get shot. Taken to live at Banbury Cross Farm with other rescued Dixie Dingos, her quick cuts and darting turns soon draw notice; she's then trained for agility championships, the most popular of all canine sports. From the start, Honey forms a deep bond with Miss Jane, who saved her in the nick of time. Her trainer is Ace, a worldly wise black man who manages the farm's kennel. Honey forms another deep bond with Miss Jane's partner, Mr. Billy, a skilled horseman who delights Honey by quoting famous rhymes. 

The story is told by Honey in a charming southern voice. She's just turned one (equal to a 10-year-old girl or boy) when the story begins. At its center is a haunting mystery: Why are swamp critters turning up dead with a wild look in the eye? Many believe a big coyote named Geronimo scares them to death. When two dead dingo pups are found, Honey becomes convinced that her pack, which is still in the swamp, could be next. Somehow she has to get them out. The plot thickens when several small pets get killed in the nearby town. Rewards are posted and a group led by the trapper Topper Guy, who nearly shot Honey, head for the swamp. Twelve innocent dingos mistaken for coyotes get shot. Miss Jane confronts Topper Guy and demands that the killings stop. The upshot is a high stakes bet: Topper Guy wagers his guns against Miss Jane's favorite horse that Honey won't win at the Sportsman's Championship. How Honey fares in that contest, and how the mystery killer gets caught, make for a thrilling read that kids at heart of all ages will love. 

In the end, Honey learns an unforgettable lesson that her pack, which now includes humans, comes first. Based on a true story, this book will appeal to middle grade readers and adults. On July 17, 2013 a front-page article in the New York Times cited new genetic evidence suggesting that the Dixie Dingo (registered as the Carolina Dog) is the oldest breed in North America, predating European settlement by many centuries. They were Native American camp dogs but are not related to the Australian dingos. Many Dixie Dingos still live in southern swamps. With their antenna-like ears and muscular build, their look is quite distinctive. Dixie Dingos are excellent pets who form deep bonds with humans.


I felt from the start that I have a terrific opportunity with Honey the Dixie Dingo Dog to introduce young readers (9-to-12) to a place few have ever been before—a bald cypress swamps in the Deep South. It is full of fascinating creatures – the 13-foot alligator to name one – that young readers have never seen before. 

It’s important for me to get and hold my audience’s attention at the outset: thus my opening line, “In the bald cypress swamp where I was born the alligator was king.” From there, the narrative depicts both a sense of ever-lurking danger and the stunning beauty of moss-bearded trees, a marsh full of critters and a butterfly army in search of milkweed. 

Once I have the reader’s attention, I have to work extra hard to keep it. This means I need a dramatic plot line that propels the reader forward to the very last page. 

In most such books, the story is told by a peer of the primary audience—in this case, a boy or girl between nine and 12. In my story, I use a surrogate peer—a one and one-half year old doe deer (Honey), which is age equivalent to a nine-to-12 year old human. To maximize the dramatic impact, Honey narrates the story; she has, throughout, a finger on her own pulse, so to speak, because she comes face to face with a series of demanding, and even life threatening tests. 

When all is said and done, the narrative has to be fun and instructive for the reader. If it can’t meet this test, it risks becoming a waste of time. Last but by no means least, it would be a terrible mistake to talk down to young readers. Their level of sophistication today is higher than ever. They don’t want to be coddled in any way. Young readers are a demanding audience with a sharp critical eye. Excellent reading skills will shape their professional and private lives for a lifetime. 

About the author:
Allen began his career as a reporter with the Associated Press in Raleigh, NC. Later, he wrote speeches in Washington for a congressional committee chairman, a member of the president’s cabinet and the chairman of one presidential campaign. He was in Poland gathering material for his first book when the Berlin Wall fell. That book – Katyn: Stalin’s Massacre and the Triumph of Truth – became a bestseller in Eastern Europe. It earned warm praised from the New York Times, the Washington Post, New York Review of Books and many other media outlets.

He was a Fulbright Fellow in Poland in 2010-11 and collected material there for a novel based on a daring mission of the Polish underground at the end of World War Two. It will be published in 2015.

His first book for younger readers (middle grade) was inspired by his own dog, Honey, whose breed – the Dixie Dingo – is probably the oldest in North America.

Allen holds a B.A. degree in English with a minor in History from Guilford College, and a Masters of International Public Policy from Johns Hopkins University. He and his wife, Betsy, live in Raleigh and have two grown children.

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