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A Dog's Life: Autobiography of a Stray Paperback – January 1, 2007

242 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the A Dog's Life Series

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 4-6–From the comfort of her new home, a dog provides a retrospective narrative of her 10 years as mostly a stray. Squirrel's voice is consistently gentle, even as she describes her surroundings and life-changing events. She describes the circumstances of her birth, and conveys sadness and grief upon the disappearance of her mother, separation from her brother, and fear when fighting mean, starving dogs. Perhaps it is her sweet nature that makes her complacent about life on the run, but it also makes her story less compelling. Avi's The Good Dog (S & S, 2001) and Sarah Clark Jordan's The BossQueen, Little BigBark and the Sentinel Pup (Tricycle, 2004) also have canine narrators but convey many rich, satisfying details about what it smells and feels like to be a dog–details that are missing here. Nevertheless, libraries with dog lovers and Martin fans will want to give this book a home.–Laura Scott, Farmington Community Library, MI
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Gr. 4-6. Novels for children rarely follow characters from birth to the threshold of the grave, but then again, most protagonists do not measure their life spans in dog years. In this "autobiography" of a dog named Squirrel, Newbery Honor Book author Martin imagines how a stray separated from its family in puppyhood finds its way in the world. Martin adjusts to her character's limited viewpoint by combining a retrospective structure--allowing an older, wiser Squirrel to shed light on things not within a puppy's purview--with graceful dog's-eye descriptions of nature, as when a moon waxes "from the tiny curl of a cat's claw to a half-closed eye." Less effective are the repetitive plot structure and the concluding focus on Squirrel's twilight years, lending the novel an elegiac tone that may not resonate with its target audience. Readers who love animal survival stories in the tradition of Anna Sewell's Black Beauty (1877) and Sheila Burnford's The Incredible Journey (1961) will embrace this for its convincing animal perspective, though some sad events may shock the softer hearted. Jennifer Mattson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks; Reprint edition (January 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0439717000
  • ISBN-13: 978-0439717007
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.2 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (242 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,262 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ann M. Martin is the bestselling author of the momentous series The Baby-sitters Club, as well as the Main Street series. Her other acclaimed novels include "A Dog's Life," "Belle Teal," "Here Today," and the Newbery Honor Book "A Corner of the Universe." She lives in upstate New York. For more information, visit

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

69 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reader on October 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
A Kid's Review:

I think that anyone who loves dogs should read this book because it is just the best book I've ever read. I'm nine years old and I'm obsessed with dogs. A Dog's Life was so good I could hardly put it down.

There were a lot of emotional ups and downs in the book. I think the writer gave very good details so you could see a really good picture in your mind.

I was so inspired by this book that I have now written a book about the life of a horse!
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65 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Martha Quigley on October 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Squirrel tells her story in simple, yet powerful language. The images are vivid. It is a testament to the heart of the will to survive, never giving up, and trying to remain optimistic. I would highly reccomend this book for pre-teens, teens, and adults. Some of the best literature out there is Juvenile/young adult fiction. The Autobiography of a Stray is one of those books. Make yourself a comfy bed, turn around on it 3 times and settle down contently to read this book.
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64 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Erika Sorocco on September 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Puppies Squirrel and Bone come into this world in a toolshed behind a summer house. The toolshed already houses cats and birds, even some mice. But there's always room for another, so Squirrel and Bone, alongside their mother, take up residence in a wheelbarrow inside the toolshed. While food is scarce, and often hard to find, the family is warm, and safe from predators. During their short time in the toolshed, Squirrel and Bone learn the rules of hunting from their mother. But when she disappears one day, after setting out for food, Squirrel and Bone know that they must leave the shed in the hopes of finding a better life for themselves. But when the two siblings are separated, Squirrel must get used to being alone. That is, until she meets up with Moon, another dog who resembles Bone. Over the course of their time together, they meet up with humans - both good and bad - and many dangerous obstacles that stand in their way to make a better life for themselves, but they never give up hope, and keep trucking, dreaming of a day when things will be better for themselves.

I have been a fan of Ann M. Martin for over thirteen-years, since her BABY-SITTERS CLUB days. And, as an avid animal lover, and the proud parent of three handicapped cats that I rescued from shelters, I was ecstatic to stumble upon A DOG'S LIFE. While it will bring a tear to your eye, and often cause you to put the book down for a breather, A DOG'S LIFE tells the brutal life of a stray animal. The abuse they take at the mercy of the hands of humans - both kind and unkind - and what they go through on a daily basis simply to find food. Told in first person - or dog - narrative by Squirrel, Martin has woven a remarkable novel for readers of all ages that will touch the hearts of all, and bring about hope that maybe, someday, all animals will live in peace, and none will be left "unwanted."

Erika Sorocco

Book Review Columnist for The Community Bugle Newspaper
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By KidsReads on November 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Squirrel, the puppy, is born in an old shed. She doesn't have any humans to take care of her, but her mother loves her very much, feeds her and keeps her warm. Squirrel spends her first summer playing with her brother, Bone, learning to hunt, getting to know her neighbors (like the orange barn cat), and snoozing in the sun. She also learns that humans are only good for one thing --- their garbage. Squirrel finds some yummy things to eat in what humans throw out.

One day, Squirrel's mother doesn't return to the shed. Bone and Squirrel wait for her, but she is gone. Though they miss her dreadfully, Bone decides to do some exploring and Squirrel tags along. They attempt to cross a busy highway and narrowly miss getting hit. Two people stop and pick up the puppies, but their help is short-lived. After only one night of accidents, howling and trash diving, the puppies get tossed out in a mall parking lot. A shopper decides to take Bone home, but leaves Squirrel, who is now alone.

Squirrel learns to survive. She must discover food to fill her empty belly and find shelter from the drenching rain and frigid cold. She continually must be on watch for the starving dog packs and other aggressive animals, and is always wary of people and their cars. Every now and then, she finds a kind human --- like the boy who feeds her chicken, the women who leave out plates of food in the parking lot, and the gentle vet who sets her broken leg. But will Squirrel ever find a human to love, one who needs Squirrel just as much as Squirrel needs her and is willing to give Squirrel a good home?

Prepare to shed some tears as you read Squirrel's story. This heart-touching tale really brings to light the serious problem of homeless animals.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on March 13, 2007
Format: Paperback
The Beginning

The book I'm reviewing is A Dog's Life by Ann M. Martin. The setting is mostly in towns and woods.


It all starts for Squirrel in a wheelbarrow. Her mother has many puppies but only two survived, Squirrel and her brother Bone. They live in a shed never entered by humans. As they grew their mother taught them how to hunt and feed off garbage heaps. But one day Mother leaves and never returns. Bone and Squirrel leave their shed and travel a long way when they stand before a highway with cars zooming by. Suddenly a car screeches to a stop and a married couple step out. They adopt Squirrel and Bone. Squirrel and Bone are later thrown out of the married couple's car once again strays. Bone is separated from Squirrel in the mall parking lot and they may never see each other again. But it's not all to bad. Squirrel meets a dog named Moon. Will she ever find Bone?

Like or Dislike?

I really liked this book because it's told from a dog's point of view instead of a human's. It also has a great vocabulary word choice so it's more interesting. It may not keep you on the edge of your seat but it will make you want to read more. It's sad at some points for example, Squirrel and Bone's mother leaves and never returns when they are just puppies and still have much to learn before they can be on their own in the woods. There is also some happy parts in it like, Squirrel and Moon meeting when Squirrel thinks she'll be alone for the rest of her life. Their travels are filled with fear of predators, excitement and kindness shown by town residents. This book was great in my opinion!

One more thing to know

Sometimes along the way to new places Squirrel and Moon get into some fights with desperate dogs in search of food.
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