Madison Morgan: When Dogs Blog is the story of Madison who loves dogs and wants nothing more than a dog of her own. When she finally convinces her stepfather to get her a dog, he bring home Lilly, a small rescued dog. Lilly isn’t at all what Madison imagined, but as she learns about the almost tragic past that Lilly was rescued from, Madison starts to come around.
Along with a classmate, Cooper, Madison starts a blog at school about dogs, caring for and training dogs, and some of the horrible things that are out there like puppy mills. When she realizes there are signs of a puppy mill in her own town, she and Cooper set out to expose it.
Madison discovers that she has a connection to dogs and can sometimes feel their emotions and see images from their memories. It helps drive home to her how important it is to save the dogs from the puppy mill.
SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid
Parental Death and Grieving
Madison’s mother died of an illness when Madison was four. Henry, Madison’s stepfather, doesn’t talk about her mother much. In some ways this really bothers Madison, but through the book she realizes that this is part of how Henry grieves for her mother. Eventually they do start talking about her a bit, and Madison learns that she has a good bit in common with her mother, including the connection to dogs.
Parents and Family
Although Henry isn’t her biological dad, he is very much Madison’s parent. She calls him “Henry” and “Dad” pretty interchangeably, because when she first met him she called him Henry, and that didn’t change completely after he married her mother. He obviously loves Madison very much and is doing his best to raise her on his own.
Cooper lives with an uncle he doesn’t get along with. His mother is out there somewhere, but she thinks he’s better off with his uncle. However, Cooper’s uncle is running the puppy mill, and eventually Cooper gets the courage to turn him in. Now that Cooper can no longer live with his uncle, he can’t find his mother either. He goes to live with Netta, who runs a dog shelter and was Madison’s mom’s best friend. Netta is more of a parent to him than anyone who is related to him.
Donald, a local bully, seems to have a pretty bad home life. His older cousin, Sasha, beats him up pretty spectacularly, although we only hear about it.
Madison was good friends with Paige, but as they start middle school, Paige is all about the boys and fashion and the popular kids. Madison has no interest in these things. Eventually Madison acknowledges that they’re just drifting apart—sometimes that happens.
After spending more time with Cooper on the blog and figuring out what to do about the puppy mill, Madison is closer to Cooper than to Paige. Although a few times Madison seems to notice that Cooper might be a little cute, it’s a very platonic relationship.
Donald is a jerk and a bully, yet he’s often hanging around where Madison is. He even ends up getting pulled into their rescue mission a bit. Madison isn’t at all sure what to make of him, but she’s pretty sure she shouldn’t count him among her friends at this point. It’s obvious to the reader that we’re not getting the whole story about Donald yet.
The whole point of the book is Madison realizing that there are dogs that need to be rescued and figuring out what role she can play in that. It doesn’t shy away from the fact that there are dogs in some really terrible situations. It explains puppy mills and the horrible conditions of some of them. Madison sees the local puppy mill, and it’s awful—all the worse because she gets visions of what the animals have been dealing with. One dog dies off screen, too abused to survive.
Madison and Cooper lie to Henry and Netta and other adults about what they’re up to. They skip school to go see Netta, because Henry hasn’t been comfortable with Madison seeing her mother’s best friend. They get into some really dangerous situations, made all the worse by their lies to the adults who care about them. In the end, Madison has to tell Henry what was going on. He’s not thrilled, but he realizes that she’s doing something she’s really passionate about and he helps her out.
While I have some issues about Madison’s tendency to sneak out and lie rather than talking to the adults who obviously care about her and could probably be talked into helping her, her desire to actively fix problems is good. In addition to helping take down the puppy mill (something most kids probably won’t ever have the chance to do), she and Cooper also help Netta with the rescued dogs, spending weekends cleaning out the barns where the rescued dogs stay, brushing and feeding and just spending time with them. This kind of volunteering is an option for many kids, and the book might inspire them to look into it.
Technology (sort of)
Madison uses hashtags within the text to provide her opinions about things, like when something is #totallyunfair. Some of her blogs are included as they would have looked online, and some of her conversations with Cooper show up as texts.
Kids who are passionate about animal rights (as I certainly was at that age) will identify with Madison and will likely envy her ability to make a difference. It might be a rough read for true tenderhearts, though. And expect tough conversations about puppy mills and other such situations. The author donates 10% of the proceeds from the book to organizations like the ASPCA and there’s information about several animal charities at the end of the book for people who would like to do more. I’d recommend it for animal lovers ages 9 and up.
Disclaimer: The author provided me with a copy of the book in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Madison Morgan: When Dogs Blog by Pam Torres
Published in 2012 by Legacy Media Press
First in a series, followed by It’s NOT Just a Dog!
Read an ebook provided by the author