Sheila Burnford's The Incredible Journey
Children's book review by Jane Finch.
Two dogs and a feisty cat and an epic journey across the Canadian wilderness
Well, it’s time to get the Kleenex out again. This is a book to suit not only pet lovers but those who like a wilderness adventure, too.
The Incredible Journey is classed as a Young Adult read, although I have to say adults will love it also. The book was released as a film in 1963, and later in 1993 remade as Homeward Bound, but in my view the book is much better.
The animals live with their family in Ontario, Canada. When the family take a trip to England arrangements are made for the animals to be looked after by a family friend. Due to a misunderstanding, when the friend goes on a hunting trip no-one realises the animals have been left behind.
Missing human companionship and not realising why they have been left, the animals set out in search of the family and their beloved home. Not an easy trip by any means as they begin what turns out to be a 300 mile trip across the Canadian wilderness.
The animals know each other well. There is Luath, a young golden labrador, who is a wise dog and has the initial idea of finding the family and home.
Then there is the old boy, Bodger, an English Bull Terrier. Being eleven, he tires easily, although he is a brave and loyal companion.
The third member of the pack is Tao, a Siamese cat. Tao is nimble and clever and adds an element of humour to the story.
Believe me, you will rejoice in the humour because this is a real weepy.
The animals encounter many trials on their incredible journey. Sometimes they are separated and their struggle becomes one of reuniting with each other, let alone with their long lost family. Food is a constant problem and the wise Tao uses his hunting skills to keep the companions from starvation...
They meet some humans along their way who offer some help and support, but the animals never fail in their dedication and all-consuming mission – to find the beloved family and their home.
There is lots of high drama as the family return and everyone is looking for each other. But I am glad and relieved to say it is a happy ending – eventually. I don’t want to ruin the final ending but you may want to have a second box of Kleenex at the ready.
I love animal stories and The Incredible Journey is a classic. I always look for the allegorical aspects and this story does not disappoint. It draws very well on the importance of teamwork, as the animals work together towards their common goal. Also the way the strong friendships hold the group together as they encounter untold dangers and life-threatening situations.
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