When Marty, age eleven, befriends an abused dog, Shiloh, and his father demands that he return Shiloh to his owner, Marty must choose between deceit and truth. He does return Shiloh once, but when Shiloh returns, half-starved and obviously mistreated, Marty cannot betray the dog's faith in him as savior. He hides Shiloh in the woods until his perfidity is discovered and Marty must face the wrath of his parents and of Shiloh's owner, Judd. This brief, simply told novel is better than most animal stories. The characters are well drawn and even Judd, Shiloh's cruel owner, has some reasons for his behavior.
The book is easily and quickly read but there are no simplistic answers in it. The great respect of the mountain people for each other's privacy and personal rights is at the heart of the book. Martin Preston's family's strict code of honor is the sticking point. The book provides ample opportunity for discussion of such questions as: would money have made a difference here? And then there are the larger questions brought into focus by the author: what is truth? Marty makes two statements that are questions for debate: "A lie don't seem a lie anymore when it's meant to save a dog" and "What kind of law is it... that lets a man mistreat his dog?" Is it necessary to be untruthful in order to gain some greater truth or good? In other words, do the ends ever justify the means?
Related Areas of Carol Hurst's Children's Literature Site
- Featured Author: Phyllis Naylor
- Guided Reading Opportunities in Good Literature. Reading for detail and making inferences in Shiloh.