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Review: Walkin’ the Dog by Chris Lynch

Walkin' the Dog by Chris Lynch

Walkin’ the Dog
Chris Lynch
Simon & Schuster BFYR
Published March 12, 2024

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About Walkin’ the Dog

“Lynch is back and better, smarter, and funnier than ever.” —Jacqueline Woodson, National Book Award Winner

A boy learns how to be a friend from man’s best friend in this funny and moving middle grade novel about humans being able to change and dogs changing us from acclaimed author Chris Lynch.

In a family of strong personalities with very strong points of view, Louis is what his mother lovingly calls “the inactivist,” someone who’d rather kick back than stand out. He only hopes he can stay under the radar when he starts high school in the fall, his first experience with public school after years of homeschooling.

But when a favor for a neighbor and his stinky canine companion unexpectedly turns into a bustling dog-walking business, Louis finds himself meeting an unprecedented number of new friends—both human and canine. Agatha, a quippy and cagey girl his age always seems to be telling two truths and a lie. Cyrus, a few years his senior, promises he’s going to show Louis how to be a better person, whether Louis wants him to or not. And then there are the misbehaving border terriers, the four (possible stolen) sausage dogs, the rest of Louis’s charges, and a mysterious white beast who appears at a certain spot at the edge of the woods.

Dogs and human alike all seem to have something they want to teach Louis, including his menacing older brother who keeps turning up everywhere. But is Louis ready to learn the lesson he needs how to stop being a lone wolf and be part of a pack?

My Review

The most surreal thing about reading this book is that the last book by Chris Lynch that I read is INEXCUSABLE, which is a pretty heavy book. So, it’s been a while since I’ve read any of his books, and this is a really different one than the last one I read.

I think my favorite part of this book is the voice it’s written in. It feels young and smart, and you can feel Louis being sneaky at different moments in what he chooses to share and not share. He’s also pretty chatty and a bit of a rambler. Sometimes, the rabbit trails drew me away from the story, but often, they revealed things that put what was happening in a new perspective.

I also appreciated that the book included a few dogs with disabilities or health problems. One dog has a wheelchair for his back legs, and another is missing one front leg. I haven’t seen that very often in other books, so it was a cool thing to include here.

The characters have a lot going on, but the story doesn’t always center around those issues. For instance, Louis’s mom is in a rehab program after a knee injury led to her addiction to painkillers. We see her only in a few scenes as Louis visits her. She appears sober in all of his memories of her at home.

As Louis builds a business walking dogs, he forges unexpected relationships with other kids and confronts some elements of his relationships with his family members. I love that the story is really framed around him walking dogs. There’s one F-bomb early in the book that seems to come out of nowhere, though. I felt like it really jumped out there without warning and without reason? So that may discourage some readers from picking up this dog story.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 12 to 14.

Louis’s friend Cyrus and his mother are Haitian American. A couple of the dogs he meets have disabilities.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
One F-bomb. I think there are maybe one or two other swear words.

Romance/Sexual Content
Louis may have a crush on a girl in the book. It’s not the focus of the story, and it isn’t totally clear how he feels.

Spiritual Content

Violent Content
Louis mentions his brother getting into a lot of fistfights in high school. He has scarring on his face that affects the way he speaks. Louis sees a dog that has died (unknown cause). Later, he sees another dog that has died, apparently from being hit by a car.

Drug Content
References to addiction to painkillers following an injury.

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