Whether you’re a card-carrying member of the ASPCA living with two rescue dogs, four cats and seven goldfish, or you shudder at the idea of taking care of another creature, you’re going to love Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Bob. I fall into the former category, but Applegate had me at her glossary of canine terms, which features such entries as “Tug of war string: a long piece of fabric or leather (though never long enough) used to lead humans during walks.”
The One and Only Bob is the long-awaited sequel to Applegate’s Newbery Medal-winner, The One and Only Ivan, a novel inspired by the story of a gorilla kept caged at a mall for 27 years. Applegate once again delivers excellence. The star of this show is Bob, a scrappy mutt who longs to be more of a hero than he currently is. He’s honest, wise and hilarious, but in his own words, he “ain’t a saint.”
A four-legged philosopher, Bob waxes eloquent about his life as a dog, sharing his desperate times, when he thrown out of a truck as a puppy and forced to live on the streets, to his sweeter times now that his human, Julie, cares for him. But Bob is conflicted about being a pet. He doesn’t like the sound of the word and sometimes finds it demeaning. Though he’s small in stature, Bob is not one to be belittled.
Julie takes Bob to visit his best friends, Ivan and Ruby, every week at the zoo, until one week, a fearsome hail storm spins into a tornado. The storm sends Bob’s world into a wet and terrifying tailspin. But just as crisis sometimes brings out the best of humanity, Applegate reveals that it does the same for animals.
Applegate’s prose is full of moments of true beauty, philosophical musings and more than a bit of laugh-out-loud humor. When I read, I like to turn down the corners of pages that contain phrases or scenes I particularly love. By the end of The One and Only Bob, the review copy I was reading looked like an accordion. Every page of it reads like a gift, and it has wisdom to offer readers of every age, free for the taking.