Its 1940, and Nazi bombs are raining down on London. Thirteen-year-old Jack navigates the smoky, ash-covered streets of London amid air raid sirens and falling bombs, dodging shrapnel and listening for cries for help as a bike messenger for fire crews. When Jack finds a dog, miraculously still alive after the latest Nazi bombing of London, he realizes theres something extra special about the shaggy pup he can smell people who are trapped under debris.
With his new canine companion, nicknamed Rip because of the dogs torn ear, maybe Jack can do more than just relay messages back and forth he can actually save lives. And if Jacks friend Paula is right about the impending Nazi invasion, he and Rip will need to do all they can to help Jewish families like hers.
Theres just one problem: Jack has to convince his ill-tempered father to let him keep Rip.
I was so happy when I found this book. Ive been trying to find a fiction book set during the London Blitz ever since I watched the Doctor Who episode The Empty Child. Most middle school books about WWII are about kids who were sent to the countryside for safety, but what about the kids who stayed in London? Im surprised there arent more juvenile fiction books set during the London Blitz. Im still hoping Lauren Tarshis will write an I Survived book on the subject.
Rip the dog is based on a real dog named Rip, who found people buried alive under rubble during the London Blitz. Before Rip, no one had ever seen a dog do such a thing, and he became the forerunner of search-and-rescue dogs. Ive read other books about search-and-rescue dogs, but I never thought about how the practice got started. The most incredible thing about Rip is that he had no training. No one taught him how to find people under the rubble. It was all pure instinct! How awesome is that! Heres a picture of the real-life Rip, sitting on a pile of debris.
I almost didnt stick with this book because Jacks father was absolutely horrible. I dont care that he lost his leg fighting in the trenches during WWI and came back home messed up in the head. That doesnt excuse the awful things he says to his son. Thats why Jack joins the messenger boys, to do his part in the war effort and prove to his father and himself that he is not useless.
If you want to learn more about the London Blitz, here are a few website articles that you might find interesting:
15 Powerful Photos of the Blitz: https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/15-powerful-photos-of-the-blitz
The Blitz Around Britain: https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/the-blitz-around-britain
All the neighborhoods and street names mentioned went right over my head, but you dont need to know all of Londons landscape to enjoy this story. Also, keep in mind that the story takes place in London in 1940, so everyone has an odd way of talking.