The Woof Review – Dog Days of History by Sarah Albee
If you’re a history buff and a dog-lover, look no further than National Geographic’s Dog Days of History: The Incredible Story of Our Best Friends (Animals) by Sarah Albee. The book begins with the very evolution of dogs from wolves and follows the journey of canines through ancient civilizations, plagues, revolutions, and Enlightenments, all the way up to present day dogs. It’s filled to the brim with historical dog facts, stories of famous dogs, and too many dog-related puns to count. Ever wondered what the ancient Egyptians were naming their dogs? Or who the U.S Presidents’ dogs were? Or how was dog food invented? All the answers can be found in Dog Days of History.
The book has a sort of unique structure. It has no continuous narrative, rather it’s divided up into individual paragraphs. These paragraphs are ordered in a loosely linear manner and divided into nine chapters. Each chapter centers around a specified period (Middle Ages, Renaissance, etc.) or century. The form lends itself well to being picked up and read whenever. Curious about Assyrian War Dogs? Flip to Ancient Worlds and voila. If in a few minutes you’re wondering about Issac Newton’s pup, head to the 17th and 18th Centuries chapter.
While this book might seem geared toward children, don’t let the picture book structure lead you astray. At 100 pages, it’s no bedtime story. I would say it’s more like mini-textbook. A very funny and engaging mini-textbook. It’s not the type of book you need to read cover to cover in one sitting, although you certainly can. It’s easy to skip around, check out some of the many excellent pictures of historical dog artifacts, read a fun side-bar story, then maybe start a new chapter entirely.
In fact, I would recommend not reading this book in linear order. At no fault of the author, the history of dogs can seem a little repetitive at some points. In almost every historical period it’s explained that dogs owned by poor people had to work hard and eat scraps and dogs of rich people just lounged around and were painted into portraits. In other words, poor dogs were poor and rich dogs were rich. This was true in the Ancient World, in the Middle Ages, and even today a little.
All that to say, this book is a magical blend of dogs and history. If you were the kid in history class that kept asking “but what about the dogs?” this is your dream book. Not only is it magical in its ability to bring dogs into almost every historical event you’ve ever read about, but it also goes the extra mile to cite sources and warn when a story might not be true. You can sit down and read it for a few minutes and already have tons of dog facts to impress your friends.
It’s the perfect birthday gift for a dog-obsessed kid (or adult) in your life or a great book to grab for your coffee table. The book Dog Days of History is going to be the perfect addition to the dog days of your summer.
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