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05 April 2009 THE DUST OF 100 DOGS by A.S. King, Flux, February 2009, 320p., ISBN: 978-0-7387-1426-4


"We are passengers in time

Lost in motion, locked together

Day and night, by trick of light

But I must take another journey

We must meet with other names" -- The Fixx


"Imagine my surprise when, after three centuries of fighting with siblings over a spare furry teat and licking my water from a bowl, I was given a huge human nipple, all to myself, filled with warm mother's milk. I say it was huge because Sadie Adams, my mother, has enormous breasts (something I never inherited)."


In 1664, while trying to escape to a new life together, the wildly successful pirate Emer Morrisey and her first and only love Seanie Carroll die violently hand in hand on a beach on the island of Jamaica after burying two crates of priceless gems taken in bloody sea attacks upon Spanish vessels. During her final fight -- moments before being killed on that beach by her nemesis The Frenchman -- Emer is splashed with a dust and cursed through incantation by The Frenchman's first mate, who dooms her to live 100 dog lives. Through those dog lives and into her 1972 human reincarnation as Saffron Adams of Hollow Ford, Pennsylvania, she retains the memories of her years as Emer and of each canine incarnation she has experienced since being cursed.


Brilliantly melding adventure and well-researched historical fiction with fantasy, romance, and contemporary YA, THE DUST OF 100 DOGS moves seamlessly back and forth between the Seventeenth century life of Emer and the Twentieth century life of Saffron, with periodic (and very amusing) interludes for Saffron's experiential-based "Dog Facts."


Emer grows up in a small Irish valley, a bright and aware child who is frustrated by the limitations placed upon girls. She becomes orphaned during Oliver Cromwell's violent conquest of Ireland. Betrayed by her abusive, turncoat uncle and submissive aunt with whom she is then forced to live, she is to be sold at fourteen into a marriage with a overweight, middle-aged Parisian but runs away upon reaching the Continent, escaping Paris upon a ship of whores bound for the Caribbean.


The stellar historical fiction segments that make up Emer's story are evenly matched by the near-contemporary portions of the book that comprise Saffron's tale:


"A puppy can walk and wander and whine from the minute they leave the amniotic sac. There is a freedom in that, which I learned to appreciate during those first years as a human again. Lying on my back for hours in a crib, wearing a diaper, and drooling made me feel like an idiot."


It is so much fun to watch Saffron growing up, equipped with all the memories of Emer's mistreatment at the hands of Seventeenth century male scoundrels and female enablers, as she verbally jousts with her clueless, uneducated, and opportunistic Twentieth century parents, and runs into such cultural sacred cows as the Senior Prom. Saffron also has a habit of daydreaming about the punishments she would choose to inflict upon those who cause her pain and frustration -- and we fully expect from what we are learning of Emer that Saffron well recalls inflicting each graphic punishment back in her previous life.


"I didn't like Mrs. Zeiver, but now I had reason to like her even less. I pictured myself liberating her eyeball from its socket and tossing it onto the merry-go-round in the first grade recess area."


"We are matching spark and flame

Caught in endless repetition

Life for life we'll be the same

I must leave before you burn me

I'm the stranger who deserts you only to love you

In another life"


Tell the truth. What would YOU do if you were born recalling how you'd buried several very-heavy crates of precious jewels on a beach in Jamaica? Would you be an adolescent obsessed with who was going with whom or where you were going to attend college? Where would YOU plan on heading the moment you became liberated from your parents, your felonious, druggie brother, and the trailer park, at eighteen? If you can find the right spot, might the treasure actually still be buried there? And, finally, who else might have gotten splashed with a dose of that curse dust?


Richie Partington, MLIS

Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.com

Moderator, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/middle_school_lit/




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