George has one faithful friend who he can rely on absolutely-Gizmo, his beloved dog. They have been together for the whole of George’s life but Gizmo is now elderly with not long left to live. George decides to compile a bucket list of Gizmo’s favourite things and to do them all with him before Gizmo dies.
However, there are obstacles to this ambition-his parents’ divorce, which leaves little money to spare, and the disintegration of his long-term friendship with Matt, who has shifted his allegiance to the two school bullies, in a effort to be seen as cool. George’s panic attacks-the result of a bad accident two years earlier-do not help, earning him the derision and cruelty of the bullies.
All seems bleak until the arrival of Lib, also a figure of fun to the boys as a result of her deprived background. She provides George with a lifeline, training Gizmo to win a dog competition which provides the money for the longed-for trip to Golden Beach, Gizmo’s final treat.
What’s That In Dog Years? is a classic tearjerker – I certainly cried when Gizmo died – and because it is partly told by Gizmo it gives his character an extra dimension. Substantial issues are cleverly incorporated into the text; the nature of friendship, the significance of social class, society’s outsiders and the tensions of married life. This is a book ripe for discussion-and, in addition, a rattling good read.