Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Duffy Barkley is not a dog
Book: Duffy Barkley is not a dog
Author: Dixie Goode
Price on Amazon, at the time of uploading this post: USD 12.99
Recommended: Yes. This book is meant for middle graders, those in the age group of 10-14. However, even older children and adults can read it and appreciate it. I would recommend this book, because not only does it deal with Duffy, who bravely faces the challenges this cruel world has on offer and learns to stand on his own feet (literally speaking), but it also weaves in issues facing all children today or even adults in the work place, such as bullying or even violence. The message this book sends is one of understanding. It is essential to understand why your adversary is behaving in a particular manner and to win him over with kindness and love. The book is well written and draws you in. It is filled with characters of various kinds and the 'Duffy Character List' provided at the end of the book is really useful.
To begin with I did not like the cover page and perhaps this cover page will detract potential buyers (however, we must learn not to judge a book by its cover). Perhaps this cover is an illustration that Duffy could well have drawn showing his friendship with the helpful bouncing fur bundles, the Oorah creatures.
While this book has been written for middle graders, I also loved reading it as well. After all, at times, we all go through the phase when we feel helpless. Duffy's stories will make us re-think, help us reach out to others, draw on our own inner strength and face the challenges ahead with a smile.
As the author of the series, Dixie Goode explains: My favorite protagonist is a young boy with Cerebral Palsy. Duffy Barkley walks on four legs, the kids tease, because he uses crutches. There are many things Duffy has to work extra hard to accomplish, but no-one can tell him "No!" He doesn't take No for an answer.
I actually won this book in a St Patrick's' Day giveaway hosted on Writer's Block Party. But, I had to wait anxiously for several weeks, for the book to reach me all the way here in India.
Duffy, is tired of being taunted in the cruel world. Being afflicted with cerebral palsy since birth, he is always the outsider and can never fit in. To make matters worse, Skull - the class-bully takes special pleasure in tormenting him. Duffy continues to retreat deeper and deeper into his inner shell. It is his younger sister Izzy, who alone relates to him and is proud of him. Alas, one day matters get out of hand and the school-bully who is facing his own ghosts brings a gun to school and Izzy is injured, almost fatally.
For the first time ever, Duffy is scared and wracked with guilt. Guilt, at being unable to save his baby sister. He is packed off to Aunty Peg’s house as his parents stand watch over Izzy battling for life in the hospital. It is here that the ‘magic’ begins and miracles happen.
Duffy falls headlong into a parallel Universe where the Tree of Life grows. He meets fascinating creatures and befriends them. He learns of the ancient Sea Turtle who loved creating new life and understood well the importance of balance. He meets the children of the ancient Sea Turtle, which include the great wise Ivor – the flying Tiger (The white tiger with wings).
Duffy learns about the dreaded Smelter. Smelter was once an outcast because he possessed certain unique gifts, he was shunned. This aloofness and loneliness led him to walk on the path of evil = which he thought was the right path. After all free choice which has been bestowed upon us, including the human race, gives us the option to choose good or evil.
Smelter decides that no one will be different. He steals children from across the worlds, all of them are barricaded in his school and forced to learn one single language, one single culture. Landscapes are redrawn to look alike. In other words, individuality of any kind is no longer tolerated. Families are torn apart and lands are destroyed.
It is up to Duffy to stand up to Smelter and to rescue the Sea Princess - Sea-Bee and also rescue his sister, will he do it? The biggest challenge is that he has to use the power of understanding and kindness and win Smelter over.
To begin with he runs away from the Oorah’s (they look like a cross between lions and monkeys and can roll themselves up and bounce merrily) who tell him about a prophecy, that he alone can help rescue the Sea Princess. He thinks that as he is crippled and weak he cannot do this. Yet, slowly he realises that he is not alone and is able to take on the challenge.
It is not just the Oorah’s who help him, but also Tricky the Centricorn (an offspring of a Unicorn and Centaur), Flowstones – living micro-organisms play a much more important role than providing him with clothing, and of course Ivor and the other offspring of the ancient Sea Turtle are there together with many many other unique creatures found in this parallel Universe. Yet, while Duffy has helpers, the final choice for any course of action is always his and he has to draw into his inner strength and courage along the journey and make decisions, including that decision which will perhaps win Smelter over.
Sacrifices are made for him and he also learns the meaning of true sacrifice, of understanding and of love.
There are some messages in this book, which I will remember for a long time to come.
When Duffy first meets Ivor, Ivor slashes Duffy’s chest (Don’t worry, there is a reason for it and it heals immediately). Ivor tells him: The gift of understanding is often brought at the cost of more pain than this has required.
Myskva, protector of the singing trees of Belle Island tells Duffy: Only by holding on to the ability to trust and love, to believe in goodness will you ever make miracles happen.
While our religious leaders have always taught us this lesson, it was once again reinforced by Ivor: Remember that an act of hatred belittles the one who acts it out, but not the one it is done against unless that person allows it to.
Throughout this book you find yourself rooting hard for Duffy and his friends and at the same time are able to comprehend why Smelter is acting the way he is.