by Ashley Clarke
Richly illustrated and incredibly heartfelt, Buddy Unchained is a story that will resonate with anyone who has ever met, owned or loved a rescue animal.
As the mother of three rescue dogs myself, I spend far too much time wondering about what their lives were like before they came to my family. Where did my lab mix live for three years before ending up at a shelter? (We speculate it was somewhere in the city, as she has an inexplicable understanding of elevators.) How did little Max, who turns his nose up at rain and has a disdain for all things nature, survive on his own for any amount of time at all? Buddy Unchained tells the story of a similar dog, a story all rescuers have heard in some form or another.
When we first meet Buddy, he has been neglected, forced to live outside chained to a post without regular access to food, water or attention. Like many dogs in the real world, Buddy is not violently abused, but rather left unattended and ignored until the day his rescuer comes. Told from Buddy’s point of view, Buddy Unchained draws out empathy in all readers—whether child or adult—pointedly showing how neglect can emotionally and physically affect an animal, but also the difference a simple act of love can make.
Karly Noel is the Director of Education and Outreach at the RedRover Readers program, which “helps develop perspective-taking, empathy and critical thinking skills as children explore the bond between people and animals through stories and discussion.” Buddy Unchained has long been one of RedRover’s—and Karly’s—recommended reads, and with good reason.
“The beautiful illustrations done by Joe Hyatt make this title perfect for our program’s read aloud format,” Karly Noel said. “The story is told from the dog’s perspective, which helps the students better understand what Buddy may be thinking and feeling throughout the book. In the RedRover Readers program, we practice pro-social skills like perspective-taking to help students seeing things from others’ perspectives in order to empathize with what they are going through.”
RedRover Readers has made it their mission to spread this empathy throughout the community, training “teachers, humane educators and volunteers to read the pre-selected program books to groups of students in elementary school and then facilitate discussions… We have curriculum written for each of our books including Buddy Unchained, and after reading to the students, the facilitator does activities to reinforce the concepts such as ‘What does a dog need to be happy, healthy and safe?’”
Through reading stories like Buddy Unchained, children learn not only to care for and love their animals, but also how important rescuing is. Even more importantly, Buddy Unchained shows that just because a dog is ignored, neglected or abused, it doesn’t mean they can’t be a happy, loving member of the family.
More information about the RedRover Readers program can be found at www.RedRover.org/Readers. Buddy Unchained is written by Daisy Bix and illustrated by Joe Hyatt. You can purchase a copy at your local independent bookstore.