Ishan Mehra has CDS … that is, Canine Deficiency Syndrome. More than anything in the world, he wants a dog. But getting his mother – indisputably already the family’s “alpha dog” – to agree is proving to be quite the challenge.
He tries to elicit the help of the rest of his family pack, namely his older brother Sunil and their father, but Mom firmly retains veto power. Besides, she doesn’t even like their neighbor’s lovable dog, Oggie, who turns out to be Ishan’s only opportunity for much longed-for canine companionship.
Ishan is one imaginative, active kid. He sets off the smoke detector making his own original version of his mother’s favorite parathas, thinks she’ll appreciate the ants as much as she loves the flowers on which they’re crawling, hides every possible pair of his father’s glasses when he’s trying to work, makes elaborate train scenes using the desserts intended to feed anniversary party guests, and indelibly decorates the newly painted family wall with cut-out pictures of dogs. He certainly gets his mother’s attention … but not necessarily her cooperation. How will he ever get his furry best friend?
Kashmira Sheth‘s first novel for younger readers is filled with mischievous, delightful fun (although as a mother, I’m also thinking thank goodness my children’s antics were never quite as creative as young Ishan’s!). The often goofy, light-hearted No-Dogs marks quite a departure from Sheth’s previous titles which have dealt with difficult issues, from tortuous child labor (Boys without Names), to childhood marriage and widowhood (Keeping Corner), to arranged marriage and debilitating cultural expectations (Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet), to jarring immigration (Blue Jasmine which won Sheth the Paul Zindel First Novel Award).
Until now, Sheth has also set her novels, fully or in part, in her native India; No-Dogs is her first based wholly Stateside, with Oshkosh, Wisconsin-born-and-raised Ishan whose “parents came from India a long time ago.” Sheth gently, expertly weaves in the occasional moment or two touching on cultural differences – names, language, food – but her tone remains cheerful and humorous throughout. Be warned: children with CDS will surely giggle and laugh through No-Dogs, all the while learning new tricks to convince obstinate parents the incomparable value of a furry, four-legged family addition.
Readers: Children, Middle Grade