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Jon Katz is best known for charming readers with autobiographical observations of the assorted animals who live with him at Bedlam Farm, particularly his dogs. In Dancing Dogs, his first collection of short stories, Katz introduces readers to a new canine cast who may not be real but nonetheless capture the multifaceted spirit of dogs and the ease with which we humans come to love them.
In "Away to Me," a dog grows depressed when the farmer gives her herding job to a slick new border collie, only to have her life changed by a surprising revelation. At "The Surrender Bay," an animal control worker comforts surrendered animals and their distraught owners during the first throes of the Great Recession. In "Luther and Minnie in Heaven," a deceased woman is reunited with her beloved dog but finds that dogs inhabit a separate heaven, a place that perfectly fits the nature of dogs but routinely horrifies the more puritanical human sensibility. A woman with an out-of-control border collie wants desperately to train her dog but finds she must first retrain herself in "Instinct Test," while the protagonist of "The Dog Who Kept Men Away" teaches her single-and-looking owner that sometimes "must love dogs" can become "dog must love you." And these are just a few of the treasures in Katz's sometimes imaginative, sometimes true to life inventory of tales.
Although dogs and their owners predominate in this collection, a loyal barn cat with a surprising best friend also makes her way into a starring role, and Katz pulls a fast one more than once on readers who make assumptions about a character's species. Katz's unornamented style makes his short fiction accessible to a younger audience, although parents will want to pick and choose their storytime selections as occasional thematic elements are more appropriate to an adult audience. Fans of Katz, and any other readers looking for a rainbow of moving tales to remind them of the varied and amazing qualities of dogs, will smile, chuckle and occasionally wipe away a stray tear at Dancing Dogs.
***This review originally appeared in Shelf Awareness. Sign up for this free and awesome newsletter at http://www.shelf-awareness.com for the latest news and reviews! This review refers to an ARC provided by Shelf Awareness.***