Animal advocate, college professor and DansPapers.com blogger Barbara Anne Kirshner spent years teaching high school English and thinking about the book she wanted to write, but it wasn’t until she left public education that Kirshner finally completed her first children’s chapter book, Madison Weatherbee—The Different Dachshund.
Written in the spirit of stories like E.B. White’s Stuart Little and Disney/Pixar’s Finding Nemo, the book, illustrated with cute and quirky images throughout, tells the tale of a displaced dachshund who embarks on a great adventure to find the love and companionship she so desperately needs in a not-always-friendly world.
Told from the perspective of the dachshund, who we’ll call Madison (though she doesn’t have a name, at first), the story begins at breeder Granny Muriel’s home in Missouri, where Madison lives with her mother and siblings. Unfortunately for her, Madison has a ridge of upturned hair on her back, making her appear imperfect and different from her brothers and sisters. Eventually, as each of them gets bought and taken to a new home before her, Madison finds herself left alone with her “Momma” and Granny Muriel.
Apparently unadoptable, Madison is placed in a cage and sent of on a trip to New York City. Madison Weatherbee is told from the dog’s perspective, so we never quite learn her intended destination, but Kirshner does an excellent job of painting the emotional picture of a dog’s journey, leaving her mother and breeder, and being sent through a series of dark, loud and unfamiliar places on the way to whatever comes next.
In Madison’s case, she’s on a plane to JFK Airport in New York. And before we find out where Granny Muriel was sending her, Madison breaks free of her crate and begins her great adventure in one of the biggest city in the world.
Moving from place to place and escaping one perilous situation after another, the scared and confused Madison makes her way around Manhattan, visiting subway stations, dodging traffic, joining the Rockettes, momentarily, at Radio City Music Hall and marveling at the lights of Times Square. Along the way, she has run-ins with some shady characters, including a very theatrical cat, but Madison does end up meeting the right friends.
In the end, this little dachshund finds love and a new home on Long Island, thanks in part to the imperfection that kept her from being bought in the first place. And the reader is left with a warm feeling, while at the same time asking, was Madison headed to a shelter or a happy home before she escaped her cage? We’ll never really know.
Madison Weatherbee—The Different Dachshund is a very personal book for Kirshner, who wrote it about, and dedicated it to, her beloved dachshund Madison Weatherbee Jacoby Kirshner, who died far too young. This connection to her protagonist and her deep empathy for animals comes through in Kirshner’s ability to see the world from the dog’s perspective, from her joyful time as a young pup with family, to the traumatic trip to New York, the eventual relief of finding another safe place and, finally, her forever family.
Madison Weatherbee—The Different Dachshund is available on Amazon.com.