The new Bookworm just out is Red Dog by Louis de Bernières, an adaptation at Bookworms Stage 2. It’s a true story about a Red Cloud kelpie, an Australian sheepdog. There’s a life-sized bronze statue to him (left) in the town of Dampier, put there by his friends after his death. When Louis de Bernières was in Western Australia, he came across this statue and felt he had to find out more about this ‘splendid dog’. So he collected all these tales about Red Dog and published a book about him. ‘But I hope,’ he wrote, ‘that my cat never finds out that I have written a book to celebrate the life of a dog.’
Red Dog was a real character – I got to know him quite well while I was retelling the story and researching the background. Here’s a bit about him from the story introduction in the book:
Red Dog had many names. At different times he was called Tally Ho, Bluey, the Dog of the North-West, but mostly he was called Red Dog, or just Red. Everybody in the north-west knew Red. He never really belonged to anyone, but he had many friends. He was never without a place to sleep, or a good meal, before he moved on – because he was also a great traveller. It is a hard, hot country, up in the Pilbara region, but Red knew how to get around. He rode on buses and trucks, in people’s cars, and on trains. If people saw Red Dog on the road, they always stopped and gave him a ride.
But there was one thing about Red Dog. You really, really didn’t want to travel with him in a car with the windows closed…
Yes, you guessed it – Red Dog had a problem. Or rather, it wasn’t his problem, it was a problem for other people! As a friend of mine put it, it’s the only book she knows that begins with a king-size fart! So it’s a story that makes you laugh, but also cry – when the inevitable end comes.
In fact, Liza, the graphic designer who worked on the book, was so moved by the story of Red Dog, that she felt she must have a Red Cloud kelpie herself. And now Chico, six years old, from the Blue Cross in Southampton, gets all the best places to sleep in Liza’s home. And I was delighted to hear from Liza recently that Chico, like Red Dog, also has the ability to clear a room of people in ten seconds!
[With permission from Liza Whitney, Graphic Designer on Red Dog in Oxford Bookworms]
The whole point of extensive reading — and how it achieves improvements in language proficiency — is that students read as much as possible, as often as possible, and with as much enjoyment as possible. So we should never underestimate the power of story to affect people’s lives – Red Dog, Liza and Chico are the proof of that!
Do you think story has the power to engage students and broaden their understanding of a language? Why not share your thoughts here?