Review first published online in November 2016 – now republished here.

Title: The Dog Who Dared to Dream
Author: Sun-Mi Hwang
Publisher: Abacus
Genre: Contemporary
Book format: Paperback
Sweet Strawberries: Sweet StrawberrySweet Strawberry

Description: This is the story of a dog named Scraggly. Born an outsider because of her distinctive appearance, she spends most of her days in the sun-filled yard of her owner’s house. Scraggly has dreams and aspirations just like the rest of us. But each winter, dark clouds descend and Scraggly is faced with challenges that she must overcome. Through the clouds and even beyond the gates of her owner’s yard lies the possibility of friendship, motherhood and happiness – they are for the taking if Scraggly can just hold on to them, bring them home and build the life she so desperately desires.
The Dog Who Dared to Dream is a wise tale of the relationship between dog and man, as well as a celebration of a life lived with courage. Translated into English for the first time, it is a classic from Sun-mi Hwang, an international bestselling author.

Review:  Scraggly is a puppy and different from all the others in her litter. Her mother doesn’t like her but the man who owns her decides to keep her, the only puppy he names. As she grows up Scraggly dreams of a happier life while dealing with the harshness of her reality.

This is a short novel that has left me feeling strange after reading it. At 169 pages it is a very short read and you’d think from the cover and title that this book is for kids but it is aimed at adults. Translated from Korean the story follows the young puppy Scraggly through her life and all the struggles she goes through. The story is told in the third person and all the animals are able to talk though humans do not understand them.

Scraggly’s life is very hard. Her mother doesn’t like her because she looks different and the man who owns her, Grandpa Screecher (so called because he shouts a lot) isn’t the kindest of owners. As the story progresses a lot of sad and horrible events happen. The entire story has an undertone of sadness, the situation Scraggly lives in is bleak and though it is sad I found myself compelled to keep reading, hoping that things improve for this lovely and sweet dog.

The book is easy to read and easy to get into but it stays sad throughout. There are deaths in the story, none of them are gory but one particular death is described too vividly for me, an animal lover, and it just feels horribly sad. All throughout the story this dog is in emotional turmoil, sometimes happy but often hurt by those around her. Though the title suggests that Scraggly dreams she really doesn’t dream so much as just goes through life hoping for the best. There are several different animal characters in the book but instead of bringing some humour which the hen might have, this just feels so sad throughout.

The ending of the book is oddly happy but yet marred with sadness at the same time. The book blurb states that this book is about a friendship between a man and a dog but it feels like an odd friendship and perhaps this is where the cultural barrier is stopping me from seeing this as a really great book. Scraggly has a friendship with the old man Grandpa Screecher but he isn’t a kind and loving owner. At times he is harsh and even cruel. I found myself compelled to read this but only to see if this friendship would improve and if Scraggly’s life gets happier but it oddly doesn’t. Things happen, there is even some understanding but it is never a really happy ending. This is something I just didn’t enjoy about this book.

There is one use of the s swear word and although I’ve seen some reviewer state that this could be enjoyed by all ages I wouldn’t recommend this story to children as it is quite sad and some of the harsh cruel scenes would be upsetting, however teens could handle it I’m sure. There are simple illustrations of foliage (a particular mentioned tree in the book), in between the chapters, that look like the front cover illustration.

Overall I have mixed feelings about this book. Though the ending is there and is okay I find myself wishing it was more. If this is an example of the differences in human, dog relationships in another country then I’m not too impressed. However this story does touch on the fact that many dogs (and humans) will live sad and harsh lives, but considering the title, I was really expecting a happier ending or at least something more satisfying but it just felt overwhelmingly sad and disappointing and I feel a bit empty after reading it.

Have you read this book or others by this author?  What about other books featuring animals?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂