By Kevin Hodgson
In an isolated part of Alaska, a team of sled dogs lives with two humans. The humans squabble over the state of their isolation as the dogs squabble over who is going to be the lead dog, and who might get a chance to mate with whom. Add in some talk about existentialism (by the dogs) and survival (by the humans), and you get an odd story.
MUSH, by Glenn Eischler (writer for The Colbert Report) and Joe Infunari, brings us inside the personalities of the pack. One dog questions the world; another wants to become the lead animal and sets plans in motion to do so; another only wants to be mate in order to continue his genetic line; and so on. My problem with the story is that I had trouble keeping track of the dogs and their personalities. Maybe it was me, the reader, but I found myself stopping, thinking “which one is this?” before moving on with the narrative. This disrupted the flow of the narrative. The use of satire and humor come through in the story, and the man and his girlfriend (he loves the isolation; she, not so much) parallels the tale of the bickering dog pack. I just wish the story had been stronger and more tightly connected, and the characters, more distinct (maybe visually?).
MUSH has a lovely art element to it, capturing the wide expanses of the cold wilderness and the fenced-in home of the dogs when they are not running. When they run with the man on the sled, the dogs come alive, and the artwork nicely captures the wide-eyed joy these sled dogs have when they are in full-run mode with the sled.
- Reading level: Ages 16 and up
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 128
- Publisher: First Second
- ISBN-10: 1596434570
- ISBN-13: 978-1596434578
FOR THE CLASSROOM
There are plenty of classrooms that do focus in on the Iditarod and the adventure of sled dog racing. This book might fit as a resource for that kind of study (but see my note below about age level), and the inside look at the personalities of the dogs themselves as they interact and create a pecking order of the pack will have anyone with their own dog wondering what goes on inside their heads.
I would recommend this book for a high school classroom, or university, but I don’t see it as a focused resource for teaching, necessarily. It might just be a book that a student interested in graphic novels might enjoy just to enjoy. There are references in MUSH to sex (among the dogs) and genitals, and plenty of poop jokes, that might not be acceptable for the younger students. The vocabulary can be pretty advanced, too, particularly when the dogs start spouting out philosophy of life.