The Dog Who Dared to Dream by Sun-Mi Hwang, translated from South Korean into English.
The tale of a mismatched pup Scraggly, the odd one out of a litter of pups born to a serial breeding mother. The man who cares for the dogs, Grandpa Screecher takes a special shine to Scraggly, giving her a name when the others don’t have any. And over the course of the first few chapters, little pup Scraggly sees her family taken away from her through various means. Scraggly has dreams, of the wind and what lies beyond the gates of her sun-drenched yard, of motherhood and of friendship.
This was a fascinatingly written tale, fairly short, but at the same time, the perfect length. At the core, is the notion of family. Scraggly was an outsider, yet she loved her brothers and sisters, tried to protect them where she could. And she loved Grandpa Screecher. She doesn’t much like the old cat next door, but trades insults over the fence quite happily. Despite her determination to be happy, to cling onto the hope and her dreams, each winter, a darkness descends and Scraggly has to face and overcome the challenges put before her.
It is beautifully written with a parable like quality. This is a novel about loss, hardship, hunger, heartbreak… and family. Throughout it all, Scraggly and Grandpa Screecher rely on each other for a sort of abstract comfort. The translation, and knowing that it was written embedded in another culture, adds another layer of mystery and nuances that enhance the tale.
With only 160 pages, it is very short. But I whole-heartedly recommend it. Do not mistake the lead character and perspective being that of a dog to mean this is a story for children. Rather, the difference in perspective allows us, as human readers, to see the problems faced from another angle, and allow us to appreciate our surroundings even more.