Megan Rix’s most recent novels, The Bomber Dog, The Victory Dogs, and The Great Escape are a children’s trilogy set during World War II. These stand-alone books depict the struggles dogs endured in war torn England and how they coped. The books target different age groups; the darker plot of The Great Escape is better suited for teenagers while The Bomber Dog and The Victory Dogs are for nine year olds and beyond.
The Bomber Dog is a heart-warming book about friendship, achievement, and perseverance. It is also teaches a history lesson, exploring the French resistance, the training needed to become a parachuter, and the animosity towards the Germans. For example, the German Shepherd dog was never called that in England with the name changed to Alsatian.
The book takes off from the very beginning when a German Shepherd puppy, Grey, raised by a child in the French resistance, is taken to England. Grey becomes a stray and bonds with a Spaniel, Molly. Together they help each other survive as they form an inseparable bond, that is until Molly is injured. It is then that Grey adopts Nathan, a young man about to go off to war. Together, with a little bit of luck, they enter the War Dog Training School where they help each other overcome their fears, eventually becoming a part of a parachute jump team. Rix is hoping children will understand, “It does not matter under what circumstances you were born because you can still become a great achiever who finds love and friendship. The inspiration for the story was a true-life handler and dog who died during the D-Day invasion and were buried together.”
The Victory Dogs is reminiscent of the Lassie series that blend humor, adventure, and tragedy. This book truly shows how dogs are mans best friend with the backdrop of London during World War II. As the blitzkrieg begins, with bombs falling, a six-year pregnant Labrador-Collie becomes frightened and runs away. In her attempt to escape these horrendous sounds she is hit by a car and badly injured; yet, finds a safe hiding place in an underground station. It is here that Misty is befriended by a cat called Sheba, while Daniel, a young veteran who was discharged for emotional reasons, befriends the puppies. The story is very touching in the scenes that show how one of the puppies helps Daniel to heal from his traumatization while at the same time he becomes the puppy’s protector.
Rix wanted “to show how wonderful dogs are and how they help us in different situations. I enjoy the writing but also enjoy connecting with my young readers. I even bought a WWII overall set worn by the search and rescue teams that I put on when I go to schools to discuss the books. I have a lot of fun with the school visits and am glad I get to know the children who read my books.”
The other book, The Great Escape conjures up memories of the famous novel, The Incredible Journey as it follows three pets in search of their children owners, Lucy and Robert. Buster, a Jack Russell Terrier, Rose, a collie, and Tiger, a ginger tomcat travel from London to Devon to reunite with their loved ones who have been sent as evacuees to live with their grandmother in the safer countryside. This book has very realistic scenes of war and devotion.
Rix stated that a forgotten fact is that the English Government “encouraged parents to send children to country areas. They put a lot of pressure on parents so both could work for the war effort.”
This book discusses the horror, tragedy, and cruelty of war through the lives of these animals. As Hitler’s terror bombing progressed and the air raid sirens sounded the three frightened animals were going to be put down. They make a daring escape, cheating death, and setting on the adventure of their lives to find their owners. A powerful quote in the book, “he saw the large bonfire that had been piled high in the field, with pets that had been put down being burnt on it.” The author also explained at the end of the book, “Before the bombs fell on London at the start of the Second World War, in September 1939 more than 400,000 cats and dogs died at their owner’s behest in just four days. This was more than six times the number of civilian deaths throughout the entire country during the whole of the war. In total between 1939 and 1940, a staggering 750,000 pets were put down.”
Rix noted, “I made the book somewhat dark. This happening is not generally known. People I spoke with could not believe it happened but the fact is it is true and did happen. I wrote about it to make sure things like this would never happen again. Hopefully, with the Internet it would be reported and the outrage would be great.”
For parents who are busy at their jobs and do not have the time to find informative books with powerful stories The Bomber Dog, The Great Escape and The Victory Dogs are highly recommended. Rix commented that all the books in this series show how “animals never choose to go to war but they often show us how to be true heroes.” The themes of these books teach children to be humanitarians, that mans best friend is truly their pet, that dogs love unconditionally, and devotion is a two way street.