Book Review: Night of the Howling Dogs

Graham Salisbury is one of my favorite authors. I recently read Night of the Howling Dogs and loved it. Inspired by an actual event (the 1975 7.2 earthquake in Halape, Hawaii), he has created a fiction story based on the horror that Boy Scout Troop 77 of Hilo, HI actually experienced while camping at Halape, during the quake and subsequent tsunami.

Senior patrol leader and eighth-grader Dylan, eagerly anticipates camping on the beach at Halape with his Boy Scout Troop, in the shadows of Mauna Loa; but when Dylan discovers that his scout leader has invited Louie (a hardened street kid with a rough past) to join the boys, all enthusiasm is gone. Dylan and Louie have a bit of a past, and the threat that Dylan feels from Louie weighs heavily on his mind.

While making the difficult trek through barren lava fields, Dylan spots two dogs in the distance—an odd thing to see in such a desolate location. The troop finally arrives at Halape, a pristine Hawaiian beach. After settling in for their first night at camp, Dylan hears the dogs howling and wonders if it’s some kind of omen.

Later that night, disaster strikes in the form of a massive earthquake, followed by a tsunami that washes the beach clean of all who inhabited it. Together, Dylan and Louie survive the aftermath of Pele’s anger; saving their fellow scouts, scout leaders and a group of paniolos (Hawaiian cowboys) who were also camping there.

Salisbury’s knowledge of Hawaii and his natural and unobtrusive style of weaving Hawaiian legend into contemporary times are masterful. He creates a compelling yet sensitive adventure story that will have readers turning the pages. This middle-grade novel received a starred review from Booklist, was a 2007 NAPPA Gold Award (National Parenting Publications Award) and was listed on the 2007 New York Public Library’s 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing.

Night of the Howling Dogs by Graham Salisbury/ISBN-13: 978-0385731225 /2007 /Wendy Lamb Books

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