Love: The Mastiff

Magnetic. Jun. 2021. 88p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781951719173.
Gr 4-8–Brrémaud’s latest wordless graphic novel follows the harrowing journey of a hunting mastiff who must traverse the Australian outback alone after his owner is attacked and killed by a poisonous snake. In his quest to get home to his remaining human family, the mastiff hunts for food and defends himself against aggressive wildlife, including hostile snakes and a pack of ravenous dingoes. Interspersed with the mastiff’s story are panels in which platypuses, echidnas, koalas, and other Australian wildlife care for their young and hide from predators. Evoking a nature documentary, this fifth book in the “Love” series uses detailed sequential storytelling to immerse readers in the mastiff’s trek. Bertolucci’s rich, earthy tones; lively action sequences; and intricate portrayals of animals in their habitats vividly capture the symbiosis and the occasional brutality of Australia’s wilderness. In keeping with these true-life depictions, animals and their young are shown in mortal peril as they are hunted and sometimes devoured. Nothing is glaringly graphic, but younger readers may find these scenes of violence upsetting. Despite the story’s intense attention to realism, snakes seem to be portrayed as angry, almost anthropomorphized antagonists—which educators may want to address with readers.
VERDICT Middle grade readers interested in nature and comfortable with the story’s realistic portrayal of the animal kingdom will be fascinated.

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