Coop the Great
Coop the Great
Many people scoff at the idea that a dog can be anything more than a simple animal, but I know better. Even a runt like me can do great things.
I didn’t always think this way. My outlook on life was sour for a long time, but I can pinpoint the moment I began to see things differently.
It all started at Derby on a Saturday that began like so many other Saturdays before.
A charming and emotional tale told from the perspective of a down-and-out rescue dog, Coop the Great is a well-crafted middle school novel written by Winnipeg-based author Larry Verstraete. As the story begins, Coop, an aging and cynical dachshund, once again finds himself in an animal shelter filled with dozens of other dogs and cats awaiting adoption by humans looking for the “perfect” furry addition to their families. When an intimidating large elderly man limps into the shelter and shows an interest in Coop, our canine narrator is reluctant to hope his fur-ever home is finally awaiting. Nonetheless, his new owner, Mike, shows him care, kindness, and patience as he settles into yet another new house where he shares the space with Lucinda, a trouble-making cat. As time goes by, Coop finds not only friendship but a true sense of family with Mike whose health seems to deteriorate with each new day that passes.
Just as Coop and Mikey begin to settle into a routine of shared meals, walks and bedtime stories, Mike’s grandchildren move in to help find an escape from their own unsettled and upsetting home lives. With the introduction of Zach and Emma and their erratic father’s efforts to locate them, both Coop and Mike are forced to reveal some dark truths and face the realization that their quiet way of life has come to an end. Coop, drawing bravery from the stories about great dogs that Mike shared with him each night, sets off on a perilous journey to save his new family when Mike and the grandchildren become stranded due to an unfortunate car accident in an isolated area.
Reminiscent of classic animal stories such as Old Yeller and The Amazing Journey, our beloved canine protagonist is faced with both environmental and human obstacles in his travels. With a conclusion that offers a mix of joyful success and upsetting failure, the author aptly trusts that young readers can indeed handle stories that don’t always offer the happiest of endings.
Both Mike and Coop are loveable main characters, each acting as a reflection of one another’s long and grief-stricken life. Both dog and man walk with aching bones and limping steps as well as emotional wounds that run deep into the core of who they are and how they respond to those around them. Offering greater emotional depth than the cute photographic cover suggests, Coop the Great also sensitively examines the impact domestic abuse has on all members of the family as well as the damaging psychological effects repeated failed adoptions have on rescue animals. Tears are likely to be shed reading this book due to the authors' deft hand in writing emotional scenes with cinematic sunrise quality.
A quick and enjoyable read filled with endearing characters, moments of humour and heartfelt storytelling, Coop the Great is a wonderful middle-school novel for all readers. Perfect for both young readers who love animals, as well as a classroom or bedtime read-aloud focusing on important themes of empathy, heroism, and the power of a positive mindset, this is a novel worthy of purchase and priority placement on bookshelves.
Amy Westbury teaches Grade 6 at Abbey Lane Public School in Oakville, Ontario.