A Different Dog

I love dogs, so when I saw a ‘dog’ in the title, I was immediately drawn to this book. Having read chapter one so far, it has well and truly hooked me. I shall be purchasing some copies for our library.

Original text and more of this extract here.

It was not the ceiling that had moved. It was him. He was sleeping on a mattress on the floor.

His wooden bed had collapsed and his mother had chopped it up for firewood. He didn’t really mind. It was cold inside and the flames had kept the place warm until morning.

But that was yesterday and there was no firewood left. He knew from the frost on then window that it would be another damp, chilly day.

He stood up quietly and pulled on his underpants and T-shirt. He shivered and quickly added a ratty pair of jeans and a holey jumper.

Then he wriggled into his mother’s pink parka.

The one with the furry border around the hood.

White stuffing poked out through a couple of holes in the sleeves.

‘Everyone will laugh,’ he said.

He pulled up the zip.

‘But I don’t give a rat’s.’

He pulled out the black bin bag that he had shoved under the mattress and pushed his head through the hole in the bottom. He pulled the rest of it down over his body and thrust his arms through the slits in the side.

He examined himself in the cracked mirror on the wall. They had found it on the side of
the road. It had a sailing ship etched into the glass.

‘Now I’ll be okay if it snows,’ he said. ‘But I’ll look like a fool.’ He shook his head and gave a rueful smile.

‘The Bin Bag Kid rides again,’ he said. ‘But at least it will keep me dry.’

The door of his mother’s room was ajar and he could hear her gentle breathing.

‘Today I will win some money,’ he said to himself. ‘And then Mum can buy two beds. And
electric blankets. And we will fix the broken window. And she won’t have to work in the
orchard in the winter.’

More than anything he wanted her to get a job which didn’t leave her with red raw hands and cold feet. A job inside. In the warm. That paid well.

‘But what if you don’t win?’ he said. ‘What then?’

He could see the fog of his own breath in the damp air.

‘I will win,’ he said. ‘I have to. Because…’

He didn’t finish the sentence. He knew that good jobs were hard to find in country towns.

Especially for a single woman with a boy to look after.

He put on his worn boots and picked up the backpack that he had prepared the night
before. Then he walked over to the outside door, quietly twisted the handle and stepped into the frosty morning. In the far distance the higher mountains were covered in snow.

He could just make out the twisting road to the top of the nearest peak.

‘Here I come,’ he said. ‘Ready or not.’

He walked across the bare paddock and paused at the wire gate. He read the words
scratched into the bark of the only tree on the property: In emory of Deefer



What do you think the sign actually said and what do you think has happened to it?

What was on the mirror they found on the road?

Why would people laugh at him in his coat?

What impressions do you get of the main character so far? Provide evidence that makes you think this.

Who or what might Deefer be?

Find three things from the text that back up the fact that the main character and his mom are quite poor.