Review: The Dog Who Saved The World by Ross Welford
So that was it. Damage done. I had started the end of the world.
Obviously, I didn’t know it at the time. I’ve kept the secret until now: how I handled the tennis ball that was infected with Dudley’s germs, germs that he had picked up from the little girl who wanted to adopt him. I then passed on the infection to poor Ben by letting him lick my germy hands, and then to the other dogs …
(The Dog Who Saved The World by Ross Welford. P69.)
Georgie has two best friends in the world. Her school friend Ramzy and her beloved rescue dog Mr Mash, who lives in a dog shelter.
The trio meet an eccentric and reclusive scientist and agree to take part in her virtual reality project. Georgie steps in front of a super computer, puts on a helment and is transported to a digital version of the real future.
A disease breaks out at the dog shelter, a disease as terrible as Ebola. It could very quickly spread to all the dogs and then to humans. The shelter goes into lockdown and a cull is announced.
With mankind and dogkind under threat, Georgie knows she must act quickly if she is to save the world and her beloved Mr Mash.
An extraordinary and poignant quest set in the near future. I bought into the science and was so immersed in the story that I felt as if I had walked in Georgie’s footsteps.
What works beautifully is how the story is set in an almost contemporary world. The dog plague is not so different to the viruses which have killed thousands of people worldwide. The supercomputer is not so far off virtual reality experiences which already exist. This is the sort of sci-fi I enjoy best, where the fiction, the make-believe, is subtle.
It is impossible not to love the dogs. From Mr Mash, who swallows things which are totally not edible, to Dudley to Ben the snarly Jack Russel, the dogs add a huge amount of warmth to the story. Having fallen in love with their individual characters, we are desperate for Georgie to do the impossible and change the future.
Georgie’s character development centres around her acceptance of her stepmother, Jessica. Jessica is allergic to dogs, and this is the reason Mr Mash had to go back to the shelter, where he lives as a permanent resident. Georgie hasn’t adjusted to the new family dynamics and she hasn’t forgiven Jessica for the allergy. This story isn’t a typical bad-stepmother narrative. Jessica is a great role model and a brilliant scientist who plays her own part in the story. She’s just not Georgie’s Mum. It was great to see this story told in a way which wasn’t melodramatic or over emotional. The family functions, but it takes time for Georgie to feel OK about that.
Ramzy is another brilliant character. His family has fled a warzone and their life in the UK is nothing like their life back home Ramzy is the kid who has to wear the same shirt to school every day. Who goes hungry to help his siblings. Often characters suffering from extreme poverty are featured in books which focus in on ‘issues’. Ramzy is bright and capable and he is 100% part of the adventure. It is important for people from every background and in every circumstance to see themselves at the centre of the action. Ramzy’s poverty isn’t brushed over and there is a powerful scene where he opens up about his experiences.
A dystopia filled with love and laughter. Having read this I want to read everything else Ross Welford has written, and I would recommend it to any reader of middle-grade fiction.
Thanks to Harper Collins Children’s Books for my gifted copy of The Dog Who Saved The World. Opinions my own.