While waiting for the final book in the Rick Riordan Heroes of Olympus series, we delved into another classic that has been hanging around in our bookcase - The Incredible Journey. I don't think I've ever read it, but I had seen the movie as a child.
The Story: A young lab, an old bull terrier, and a Siamese cat are being watched by a friend of their family, while their family is off in England for months and months. While they like their temporary master, when he goes away on a hunting trip, the lab takes the initiative in heading westward towards their original home, miles and miles across the forbidding Canadian wilderness. Through a series of unlikely circumstances, no one knows that they are gone for weeks, not even the kindly lady who was watching over the house (and them, too, supposedly), while their temporary master is gone. The going is not easy, and the old dog especially has a hard time with it, especially in the beginning, but the intrepid trio doesn't give up, and look after and encourage each other through it all.
The Good: This is not your typical "the animals start talking as soon as their
owners leave the room" kind of story. The story is all told as if you
were watching the animals, and it is very exciting. You really get the feel of each animal through their actions and the way the author writes them. The cat is loyal to his friends (particularly the old bull terrier, whom he hunts for occasionally), but is also a typical cat, disappearing to go stalk something, fiercely independent, smart as a whip. The bull terrier is a sweet old thing, who doesn't understand when people they meet don't automatically fall in love with him all the time, and who is determined to keep up with his friends, even when his old body is having troubles with it. The lab is wary of people who are not his beloved family, and is single-minded about his westward journey. Their way is not without significant troubles, but some of the people they meet along the way are kind and wonderful, and in the end (spoiler!), they all make it home!
The Bad: There are parts when each animal is injured and you aren't entirely sure they are going to make it. The bull terrier has his troubles because he is so old and unused to such effort, and he has a run in with a bear cub that ends with some injuries. The cat is convinced to cross a river and a dam bursts, sweeping him away and nearly drowning him. The lab has a run-in with a porcupine that ends with him severely quilled. They are hungry, and it isn't easy going. Some people are not kind to them, especially when the bull terrier kills some chickens, and they get shot at for stealing garbage. The more sensitive child might be put off by these troubles.
The Verdict: Totally worth being the classic it is. I hope we can get our hands on the movie, to see how it holds up (I haven't seen it since I was a kid). It is recommended for ages 8+, and I think that's about right. It was captivating and you really root for the animal trio. It was not a very long read, which is nice after some of the beasts we've been tackling. Overall, I can recommend this highly.