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I teach Hamlet to my seniors at school, and so I had to read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle so I could see how this wonderful, celebrated book connected to one of my favorite Shakespeare plays.
This book tells the story of a young boy, Edgar, who is mute. He signs to his parents, Gar and Trudy, who live with him on their farm. They breed and train their own breed of dogs simply known as Sawtelle dogs. Gar, Edgar's father, is intrigued by dogs and is trying to create a dog that is a wonderful, attentive, and trained companion. Edgar and his mother help with the dogs and all is well on their farm...until Edgar's uncle, Claude shows up. Claude is mysterious and clearly has problems with Gar, his older brother. Edgar watches and listens, but when his father dies suddenly one night, Edgar's world is turned upside down....he suspects his uncle but doesn't know what to do.
The story that follows is about how Edgar deals with his father's death with the dogs at his side. He observes and makes his own moves.
I really loved this book. It took me a while to get through, but I also really wanted to make sure to give it all the time it deserved. While I was intrigued by the adult characters, I mostly loved being with Edgar and in his mind. I loved thinking as he thought and seeing the world through his eyes. Another perspective I also appreciated and loved was the point of view of Almondine, the Sawtelle's dog. I felt that the author clearly showed what the dog was thinking and feeling.
I think that this book can appeal to YA lovers, because at it's heart, it is a story about a boy and his dogs. It's also a classic Hamlet retelling in which a son seeks to revenge his father's death. If you know Hamlet, you will love this book and enjoy making connections between the two. I hope that some of my students will choose this book when we do our fiction project with Hamlet. We'll see!