The Hundred and One Dalmatians
by Dodie Smith
Fans of the Disney films based on this book already know whats in it pretty well. For those of you who missed them, Dodie Smiths first novel for children (1956) starts with a bachelor and his young male Dalmatian meeting a pretty young lady and her female Dalmatian. The result is a double marriage, followed by a litter of 15 puppies and the adoption of another female Dalmatian to help nurse the pups. OK? That makes 18 Dalmatians so far.
Mr. and Mrs. Dearly and their servants, Nurse Butler and Nurse Cook (who are actually more of a butler and a cook these days), love the dogs dearly: handsome Pongo, pretty Missis, and the matronly nurse-dog, Perdita. They fully intend on keeping all fifteen puppies, from the horseshoe-spotted Lucky and the big strong Patch, to the mischievous Roly Poly and the slight, delicate Cadpig.
But the Dearlys havent reckoned on their pepper-loving, perpetually-fur-wrapped neighbor Cruella de Vil-yes indeed, she of the half-black, half-white hair and the penchant for cruelty to animals.
Cruella devises a hideous plan to turn the Dalmatian puppies of England into fur coats and matching gloves. Part of her plan involves dog-napping the Dearlys fifteen pups and using her vile, stupid henchmen (appropriately named Badduns) to guard them at her horrible country house.
Pongo, however, one of the cleverest dogs in Dogdom, is not that easily put off-especially when his family is at stake. He and Missis use a canine communication relay known as the Twilight Barking to locate their pups, then set off cross-country to stage a daring rescue.
Aided by kind animals and, occasionally, even by people along the way, Pongo and Missis arrive at Hell Hall just in time to learn that Cruella has decided that all the pups must be killed at once because of the publicity over the Dearlys lost and stolen pets.
All hopes of devising a careful escape plan go out the window, as Pongo and Missis must immediately lead their 15 pups and 82 others in a desperate flight through the Suffolk countryside. (97 pups, plus Pongo, Missis, and Perdita, still make only 100. Hmmm....)
I suppose you can imagine how hard it is for 99 Dalmatians to cross 50 miles of England without being noticed' and in the dead of winter, thats a lot of puppies needing food, drink and warmth as well. Some of them cant walk long distances yet, either. Cruella is on their trail, and there are other setbacks too.
So theres even more adventure getting back to London than there was coming away, but a happy homecoming, and sweet revenge, are in store-as well as the answer to the great mystery: What about the Hundred and "Oneth" Dalmatian?
Recommended Age: 8+
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