Dog Star Rising
by Our Guest on June 8th, 2009

Today we’re excited to have author Jeri Smith-Ready with us talking about this week’s topic, our favorite childhood books.

Jeri will be stopping by throughout the day, so leave a comment or question for her and you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of her latest romantic urban fantasy, BAD TO THE BONE, which features the vampire dog Dexter, among other dark and devoted heroes.

Smith-Ready pours plenty of fun into her charming, fang-in-cheek urban fantasy. — Publishers Weekly, starred review

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By Jeri Smith-Ready

Thanks to Jessa for inviting me to join you ladies on your fabulous blog! I was thrilled when she told me the topic, because I always relish the opportunity to dish about books I love, especially lesser known ones like DOGSBODY by Diana Wynne Jones.

I rediscovered my favorite childhood book only last year. I couldn’t remember the title or author, just that it was about Sirius the Dog Star, a short-tempered Luminary (a sort of deity) who was framed for murder and sentenced to live out the life of a dog on Earth. After almost an hour of searching online, I found the now-out-of-print book and ordered a used copy. There was much rejoicing.

I then had the pleasure of reading this book out loud to my own dog as she recovered from back surgery last December. It seemed to soothe her to put her head in my lap and listen to my voice. She didn’t even care how gracelessly I switched between the English and Irish accents.

Anyway, the book. The reader experiences everything through the mind of Sirius as he is born blind and deaf (and very, very hungry!), and then is tossed in a river with the rest of his mongrel brothers and sisters. He survives this ordeal with the help of the sun (Sol, who along with the Moon and Earth will later become a friend and helper) and is rescued by Kathleen, an Irish girl living with her English cousins while her father serves a prison term for his part in “the Troubles.”

As Sirius grows up, he realizes/remembers he’s more than just a dog, and that one of the reasons he’s been sent to Earth is to find a dangerous luminary weapon known as the Zoi. Problem is, he doesn’t know what it looks like or where to find it. Moreover, the pursuit of his quest tends to be sidetracked by things like butcher shops and bitches in heat. He is, after all, still a dog, and at first he laments his corporeal limitations. But when he faces an ancient power as old as the earth itself, it’s the love he inspires in his adopted family that ultimately sees him through his darkest hours.

DOGSBODY was the perfect novel for my nine-year-old self, for I loved animals and astronomy. But it’s a book that filled Grownup Jeri with as much wonder as it did Kid Jeri. As an adult, I was better able to appreciate the ambitious task Jones undertook in her attempt to marry a girl-meets-dog story with astro-mythical elements, plus a dash of Celtic legends.

To this day, I adore animals, and Sirius is still my favorite star (not to mention my choice in satellite radio carriers). I even married an astronomer and convinced him to adopt a dog. Talk about childhood dreams coming true!

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Jeri can be found at http://www.jerismithready.com and most often these days at http://twitter.com/jsmithready, along with the WVMP Radio series main characters Ciara Griffin (http://twitter.com/CiaraGriffin) and Shane McAllister (http://twitter.com/ShaneMcAllister).

48 comments to “Dog Star Rising”

  1. 1

    Welcome, Jeri! Thanks for visiting with us today.

    What a terrific book. I’ve never read DOGSBODY, but it sounds like the quintessential imagination stoker. What child wouldn’t enjoy seeing life from the point of view of a dog–especially a pup who was once a god and is now challenged by the constraints of his doggy existence?


  2. 2

    I’m running right over to Paperbackswap to see if I can find this. Sounds like something my grandson might enjoy. Thanks Laura


  3. 3

    Awww that book sounds great! Poor puppy, getting thrown into a river! Your book sounds great too. I can’t wait to read about a vampire dog!


  4. 4

    Jeri! I totally read that book, too, loved it and despaired of ever figuring out what it was again also!! I’ve had a special attachment to Sirius ever since. Congrats on the new pub! (and would you email me? I lost your email addy. heard you had trouble getting on the FFP list/loop)


  5. 5

    Great post, Jeri! That sounds like an interesting book. I can still remember the book that set me off on the road to reading fantasy. I was also 9 when I read John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids. It opened my world to the wonders of the imagination, and I’ve been reading non-stop ever since :-) .


  6. 6

    I’m looking forward to your latest read, never heard of the book suggestion I’ll have to check that one out!


  7. 7

    How very fun. At first when I started reading this entry, I assumed by children you meant very young children and though oh my god, jeri smith-ready is reading four and five year olds stories of framed murderers and puppies thrown into the river!. of course childhood extends quite a bit beyond 5, and i can see how my 9-year-old self probably would have loved this. i remember all kinds of books that i am not sure of the title of, but thanks to the amazing intrawebs, i could probably find easily. thanks for sharing this one. :)


  8. 8

    I don’t recall this title, but I will try to find a copy because my eight-year-old daughter would love this. She’s all about cats and dogs. :smile:

    Thanks for the rec!


  9. 9

    What a great story! I’ll have to look it up. I was reading the Mabinogion around that age, though they was just called ‘Celtic Tales’ then. Was also a BIG Madeleine L’Engle fan.


  10. 10

    Do you think this is where J.K. Rowling got the idea for Sirius Black who shaped shifted into a dog? :razz:


  11. 11

    Hi Jeri. Dogsbody sounds like a great book. :smile:


  12. 12

    Annette: It was definitely a huge book for me as a kid, and I would think about it every time I looked up in the winter sky. I got it from the library, and I guess I read so prolifically as a kid there was no question of me actually owning very many books or we would’ve gone bankrupt! :oops:

    Laura: It’s definitely a book for both genders of kids, and though it’s labeled 9-14, I think older and even younger readers would enjoy it, too. It’s got so many layers of meaning.

    Lesley: It’s amazing how many animal books I read as a kid involved the poor critters being treated badly–it seems to be a running theme in children’s literature, at least back then. I hadn’t remembered this book being so sad at parts–maybe kids have more tolerance for it?

    Jeffe: It’s great to find someone else who read it, and a fellow Sirius lover! I even named the dog in my first manuscript Sirius (even though she was a girl ;-) . I’ll e-mail you.

    Zita: I haven’t read The Chrysalids, but it must have been wonderful to get you on a lifelong reading kick. :smile:

    Teresa: Thanks! I found a used copy on Amazon, and they still have plenty.

    Miss Marjie: Dogsbody is labeled (on Amazon, at least) for ages 9-14, which technically makes it a middle grade novel, I guess. I have a terrible memory, so I don’t remember many children’s books to the point where I could discuss them. I did love all the Dr. Seuss books, and Pokey Little Puppy, though. :wink: My other choices were ALICE IN WONDERLAND and the novel 101 DALMATIANS by Dodie Smith. I think I read each of those 15-20 times over one summer in elementary school.


  13. 13

    Sounds like a great book! I love animals and this sounds like a fascinating twist.


  14. 14

    Heather: She’ll love it! The interaction between Sirius and the cats is wonderful. All the animals’ thoughts are presented as dialogue–some of it’s very funny.

    Kat: It’s funny, we read A WRINKLE IN TIME in 4th grade, and I couldn’t get into it at all (I was the least gifted in my gifted classes :shock: ). But later in life (as in about 5 years ago) I read the whole series and adored it! A SWIFTLY TILTING PLANET was my favorite.

    Steff: LOL! I think they probably both got the idea from the star itself. :wink:

    CrystalGB: Hi! I hope you enjoy it if you can find it. I certainly loved it.


  15. 15

    Char: It was incredibly imaginative, the extent of which I think I couldn’t appreciate until I was older. When I reread it last year, I was thinking WHERE in the WORLD did she get this idea? :eek:


  16. 16

    I’ve never heard of this book, but it sounds really cute. I’m going to have to look for it. Thanks for sharing, Jeri. :)

    Rebekah


  17. 17

    I just have to comment again — it’s interesting what Jeri said to Lesley, about how many children’s books are about animals being mistreated. Thinking about Dogsbody has been reminding me of Paul Gallico’s books, notably The Abandoned, which I read around the same time, about stray cats. Who could, of course, think and communicate telepathically. I seem to recall a little boy becomes one of them.

    At any rate, I’m thinking — perhaps the pain and powerlessness of the animals is an accessible metaphor for children? In some ways, children and animals are both at the mercy of the adult world, which can be cruel.


  18. 18

    I’ve heard from a number of people that Wynne-Jones is a great (and somewhat underappreciated) author. She’s been on my “should check out” list, and you’ve just bumped her to the top!

    Thanks so much for joining us!


  19. 19

    Oh, I loved that book, too – in fact, I still have it on my shelf and obviously need to do a reread.


  20. 20

    Sounds like a great story- though the age range seems strange- there’s such a huge difference between a 9 and a 14 year old. The only books I remember reading as a “young adult” were Christopher Pike’s. I was wondering, are there any books you can think of that are maybe sort of like that that may be “softer” as a lead-in (i.e. approp. for younger than 9?) Or just anything you remember that was fantasy/para-like as a younger child?


  21. 21

    Jeri, sounds like a fascinating book. I will have to look it up. I have two kids (who are a little young right now) who I would love to read this to when they get older.


  22. 22

    I’ve never heard of the book before either.Sounds good though.Something my nephew might like.

    you’re books have been recommended to me by several people,I can’t wait to read them.

    Thanks for the chance to win a copy.


  23. 23

    Hi Jeri,
    The vampire dog in BAD TO THE BONE has me hooked! I’ll have to read that book!


  24. 24

    Rebekah: It’s a great book. Hope you enjoy it if you can track it down. There are tons of used copies on Amazon.

    Jeffe: I think you have something there. Books like Black Beauty or even Call of the Wild show the struggles of animals against forces they can’t control. In most of the ones I can think of, they overcome the obstacles either through their own strength or working with others or a combination. I know that this type of book turned me into even more of an animal lover than I already was.

    Sharon: I had been hearing a lot about her and thinking I should check her out. Then when I found out she had written DOGSBODY, I realized I already had! She has many better known books still in print.

    Chris: Isn’t it wonderful? I’m jealous if you have an original edition–I wish I’d asked for it as a gift when I was a kid. I read so much, I owned very few books.

    Bethany: Well, as I mentioned above, another favorite was 101 DALMATIANS by Dodie Smith (not the Disney movie). There’s no magic per se, but the animals do talk to each other and the book is from their perspectives, so it has that magical feel.

    Kendra: It was fun to read out loud, because there are so many great characters with different voices. Of course, I had trouble switching the accents back and forth. :wink:

    Elaine: Thanks! Good luck in the drawing.

    Chey: BAD TO THE BONE is the second in the WVMP series, which began last year with WICKED GAME. Dexter is introduced in Book 2 (and since he’s a vampire he’ll live an extra-long life into all the rest of the books–yay!)


  25. 25

    What a rockin good cover! Just looking at it makes the George Thorogood song start playing in my head.


  26. 26

    Diana Wynne Jones has always been one of my favorite authors, but I was unaware of this particular book, so I’m going to have to look for it. :)


  27. 27

    Thanks for being here, Jeri! What a great story you’ve shared.

    Jeffe, I think you’re right about kids relating to animals. There’s the size difference with adults, the powerlessness, the lack of clear communication skills, the energy level, the excitement of encountering a new world…

    One of the reasons I love my dog (she’s not a vampire, but we call her demon dog) and — I assume :grin: — that people love their kids is the reminder to be gentle and be bold and love lots.


  28. 28

    I’ve never heard of the book or author.

    I also have a book or series of books I read as a youth – about a princess who has to flee the castle and is helped by underworld beings. I can’t remember much more, I believe there was a series … like her dad actually worked in the mines or something in one.

    Anywho, I love to hear about books that others read as a child, thank you for sharing!

    And if anyone can come up with the books of which I speak puhlease let me know!


  29. 29

    Sorry to hear that the book is out-of-print but it sounds fascinating and I’m going to see if the public library has a copy.

    To anyone who hasn’t read Bad to the Bone yet… it’s excellent. I have an ARC, but would love the chance to have a signed copy.


  30. 30

    Well, I think I answered my own question … they might be
    The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and the Curdie
    by George MacDonald

    I’m now immersed in reading about them!


  31. 31

    Oh, I’ve never heard of Dogsbody by Dianna Wynne Jones! It sounds wonderful.

    However, now that you’ve mentioned Sirius, the Dog Star, I now have an urge to re-read The Starlight Barking by Dodie Smith which I totally loved and re-read a number of times as a kid. :smile:


  32. 32

    Jody: Thanks–I love the cover, too! My editor had that problem–she said every time she picked up the manuscript she got the George Thoroughgood song in her head. Oddly, that never happened to me.

    Jennifer: I hear her other works are wonderful, too. I hope they bring this one back into print one day.

    Jessa: Thanks for having me! I love what you said about animals teaching us how to love and be gentle and bold. Very true.

    Robin: I’m glad you figured out the book you were looking for. I know how maddening that is.

    Heather; Thank you so much! I’m so glad you enjoyed BAD TO THE BONE. :grin:


  33. 33

    Jacqueline: She’s the same one who wrote 101 DALMATIANS, and she refers to the Twilight Barking (and Midnight Barking as well, I believe) in that, too. I’ll have to check that one out. Thanks!


  34. 34

    Enjoy your books and am looking forward to this one!


  35. 35

    :shock: This sounds like a lovely book and I’ll have to hunt it down.

    My mother is a “Foster Parent Failure”. She is a dog foster parent and has kept 6 so far lol

    Thank you!

    WW


  36. 36

    Hi Jeri, thanks for being here today! I wish I had known about this book when I was young, and when my own daughters were little. I hope it’s possible to track down a copy – I’ll save it for future grandchildren, lol. I wonder, is there anything of Sirius in Dexter? Don’t answer that – I’ll read Bad To The Bone To find out!


  37. 37

    If only I’d known, I could have read this to my two girls as they recovered from surgery last week (a week later, they are just as active as every and won’t sit still for story time except when they are busy sleeping; in other words, typical 6 month old pups).

    I’d love a copy of Bad to the Bone – I suspect Dexter would be their hero (as they are all teeth, still, a vamp dog would definitely be one to whom they could relate).

    Karen
    Books On The Knob


  38. 38

    My favorite childhood book was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Where the Red Fern Grows, Kavik the Wolf Dog by Walt Morey, Shiloh, Big Red, Scruffy by Jack Stoneley and Black Beauty.

    I have a question for you that I thought up the other day: If you could have your characters visit another author’s world where would you like them to go and who would they visit while there?


  39. 39

    Hi :lol:
    Thank you for the terrific blog. I love Diana Wynne Jones too. It brought back fond memories. Thanks very much for sharing.
    :smile:
    There are just so many books I loved as a child like The Black Stallion, Black Beauty, Lloyd Alexander’s Taran series, The Hobbit, etc.
    :eek:
    Love From Canada
    xoxo


  40. 40

    I loved Wicked Game and look forward to Bad to the Bone. Do you know if you will be signing it at the RWA literacy autographing? I’d love to get a copy there.

    Jeanie


  41. 41

    Rachel: Thank you, and good luck in the drawing!

    Wildwitch: Wow! We’ve fostered something like 20 dogs and never kept any. Tempted a few times, but they always got adopted before we had a chance to make a decision.

    Allison: No, I’m afraid Dexter isn’t nearly as smart or godly as Sirius. He does love his best human friend, though. :grin:

    Karen: Yes, 6-month-old pups rarely hold still. It’s always a challenge to keep them quiet long enough to recover from the spay/neuter operations. :smile:

    Ladytink: I love a lot of the books you mentioned–I read all of the Big Red books. And that is a really tough question! I’ll have to think about it and report back tomorrow.

    Jeanie: I’m glad you enjoyed Wicked Game! Yep, I will definitely be at the RWA literacy signing–hope to see you there!


  42. 42

    My kids (in their 20s) and I are all too old for Dogsbody to have been a childhood favorite for any of us, though it sounds great. I remember as little ones them being partial to the Mercer Meyer Little Critter books, and Clifford, the Big Red Dog. My daughter still loves Seussian things, and my big, bad, Viking-resembling son is a fan of cuteoverload.com. They each had their first outing as babies to the Carnegie Public Library in Pittsburgh. They HAD to be readers!

    I had a number of books illustrated by Tasha Tudor as a child; she was a friend of a great aunt. One favorite was The Doll House by Rumer Godden. I have a signed first edition, 1962?

    These days, daughter’s favorite author is Chuck Pahlanuk (did I spell that right?), and son is a SF/fantasy buff. He’s going old school right now with some of the OOP P.N. Elrod vampire series. I love paranormal, fantasy, futuristic, etc. etc. I’m a self-proclaimed bookaholic. I’d love a copy of Bad to the Bone.


  43. 43

    Amy: Dogsbody first came out in the US 1978, I think. That’s great that you raised your kids to be readers!

    OK, folks, I’m off to bed. G’night!


  44. 44

    I have never heard of DOGSBODY, but it sounds like I need to get a copy! My kids would love it, and I would too!

    GREAT cover on Bad to the Bone!


  45. 45

    Rob: Thanks for stopping by! I loved Black Beauty and gobbled up all the Black Stallion books. Basically, anything with animals–I read it. I enjoyed fantasy/sf but only if animals were involved. I didn’t really get into the genre until someone told me that’s what I was writing (even though I was actually writing in this weird little niche called “urban fantasy” :???: )


  46. 46

    Isn’t it the coolest to find your childhood favorite book again??? Mine was The Mystical Beast. I finally found a copy on Ebay a few years ago and it felt SO good just to see the cover again! LOL

    I read it over and over in junior high! :)

    Glad you found yours again too!

    I’m reading BTTB now and LOVE it!!! So good to be back with the vamp DJs again! :)

    Lisa :)


  47. 47

    Hi Jeri!! Hope I’m not too late to see you! Loved your Aspect Of Crow books and looking forward to getting and reading this new one!!

    I read lots of Hardy boys (yep I read the Nancy Drew books, but I was so more into The Hardy boys!). I continued to read The Little Woman series books whenever I saw one. Last time I saw the first book again in the library when we went to visit not long after my surgery and I was feeling down. Reading Little House in a sitting there so lifted my mood!

    I remember too that comes to my mind alot, A SEPARATE PEACE by John Knowles. A sad one but one I read many times. Ah the memories!


  48. 48

    Kim: Thanks! I really lucked out on the cover. I’ve been pretty lucky with all of mine. *knocks on wood*

    Lisa: I’m so glad you’re enjoying BAD TO THE BONE! I’ve never read MAGICAL BEAST. Sadly, when I rediscovered DOGSBODY it wasn’t the original cover. The first edition hardcovers go for over $300 on Amazon now. Yikes!

    Caffey: Glad you enjoyed the Crow books! I tried the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, but my favorite young detective series by far was Trixie Belden. She was a tomboy and always getting into trouble–not a goody-two-shoes like Nancy. :cool:


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