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Book Review ~ Darling: Mercy Dog of World War I

Mercy Dog of World War I

Alison Hart

Illustrated by
Michael G. Montgomery

I was given this book back before Christmas to read and then review (b/c I'd offered to) and I'm embarrassed that I'm just now getting to it. I've had a draft up for quite some time (as I'd read the book awhile ago) and would work on it from time to time but never really liked the way it *sounded*. It's been long enough now and I hate that it's taken me till May to get this published. I'm so sorry Alison. I had every intention of reading/reviewing this much sooner than I actually did. I hope you'll forgive me?

I've never done a book review like this before, so please bear (or is it bare? LOL) with me as I muddle through this. I hope I do Alison justice as I REALLY enjoyed this book.

Darling has a happy life, chasing sheep and begging for treats. But World War I is raging and life is about to change for Darling, her family, and her country.
When the British military asks for dogs to help in the war effort, Darling's family reluctantly sends her off to be trained as a mercy dog. Darling travels to Belgium with the 10th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment and helps locate injured soldiers on the battlefield, despite gunfire, poisonous gases, and other dangers. She is skilled at her job, but surrounded by danger. Will she ever make it back home to England?

Darling is the first book in the series Dog Chronicles and follows Darling, a rambunctious collie. It's told from Darling's perspective, which I personally really enjoy.

The first several chapters really give you an idea of Darling's character and sets the stage for the rest of the book. It starts off by showing Darling's playful, if not slightly naughty side with her running away twice at the beginning of the book. It shows the love and loyalty she has for the children and her family by allowing the children to dress her up and then later on in the book by her daydreams of returning to her life back home.

All too soon, Darling is needed to help fight the war. The family can no longer avoid the Dog Tax and she's loaded on to a train with other dogs and shipped to a training facility. Attached to her collar is this note:

Dear Soldier.
This is Darling. She is smart and brave. Please take care of her and send her home to us. We love her even though she runs away sometimes.
Yours truly,
Robert and Katherine

She's trained to be a Messenger Dog, and while she does a good job, her thoughts continuously return to her family, the family she dreams of running home to.

But things don't go exactly as planned; she's on a training mission when she finds the perfect opportunity to finally run away and go home to the ones she loves but her loyalty kicks in and she can't leave when her handler is injured and needs her.

That leads her to her new job; Mercy Dog and she excels at it.

Darling is then injured in the line of duty and her life is questioned but those who are loyal to her fight for her right to live.

I'm still new to the whole book review thing so I hope I don't do a shoddy job here but I'll give it a go:

I really enjoyed the book. As I mentioned earlier, it's told in 1st person (err dog? LOL) perspective and I really enjoy that. It's geared for kids aged 8-10 but I think even adults would enjoy reading it some lazy Sunday afternoon. B/c it IS geared toward kids, it was a pretty quick read but sometimes that's better than the longer books that keep going and going.

The story was well written and I could picture myself in the scenes as they happened. I found myself cheering Darling on, sharing in her accomplishments and even her sorrow. The people in the book were easy to relate with too. I had my favorites and when they did what I hoped they would, I couldn't help but cheer and laugh. The illustrations were simply beautiful and were perfectly made for the book. I also really enjoyed the History lesson that was woven into the book; I'd never heard of Messenger Dogs or Mercy Dogs and the historical facts and links to more sources at the back of the book were a really nice touch.


My only "complaint" about this book and it's not a very big one is that her stray friend named Rags is mentioned at the beginning of the book and then she actually runs into him on the battlefield but that's it. No other mention of Rags. The way he was brought up at the beginning of the book and the fact that they found each other at the training field, made it seem like, to me anyway, that he was more than just a filler, that we'd hear more about him and maybe they would even be reunited once home but that doesn't happen.

I would have also enjoyed a better ending. While it WAS a happy ending it was kind of left lacking. I would have preferred a happy reunion of sorts. Reading about Robert and Katherine's joy in having their Darling back and maybe a brief snippet of Darling getting back into her old troubles and adventures would have been a nice ending. As it was, the ending wasn't horrible, she DID make it home, I just wish there was more to her homecoming but I guess the fact that she'd survived the horrors of War was ending enough.

Even with my "complains".....and I hate using such a harsh word b/c they're not really complaints just bothersome points? I don't know. Anyway, with those 2 points, I'd still read it again and recommend the book to young and old alike. (I did actually give it to my Mom to read while visiting a couple months ago and I hope she'll add her own thoughts to this or maybe even her own review. Hint Hint Mom. ;-) ) The book was a fun read and I can't wait to read the next books in the Series. If you're a dog lover, then you'll probably enjoy the series too.

*All illustrations shown were taken by me from my book


  1. Thank you Jennifer! A review well done. Both Darling and Rags thank you as well. :)

    1. Thanks Alison! Glad I could do it. :-)

  2. I'll have to check out this book! I like an "easy read" kids book every now and then when I don't want to concentrate on a more complicated story. I'm wondering if Rags doesn't show up in later books in the series. Maybe this was just an introduction for later. Who knows. Regardless those are not horrible "complaints" at all and they don't deter me from wanting to read it. I'd never heard of Mercy Dogs either so it's cool to learn about that. :)

    1. I'd wondered that too about Rags but I don't know. I think the series is more about Wartime dogs and not following a specific dog. I have a copy the Author gave me to pass along if you'd like it. :-)

    2. Aww really? That would be awesome! I could read it and then five it to my niece. She would love it. I'll email you! Thanks!!


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