I’m a sucker for legends and myths. Atlantis. Robin Hood. King Arthur. You get the idea. So when I picked up middle-grade author Rita Monette’s debut novel, The Legend of Ghost Dog Island, I wasn’t disappointed. The book, set in the Louisiana bayous during 1956, was inspired by Ms. Monette’s childhood. She states in an interview we had last year, “In 1956, none of the modern day conveniences are around, such as cell phones, TV’s, and video games for the kids to entertain themselves. And kids had much more freedom to explore without fear of their surroundings. This is a perfect time for adventures to take place without using “fantasy” worlds.”
The author also includes historical facts pertaining to the lifestyle and history of the Cajun people, as well as sources for further research on the topic in the “author’s notes” section at the end of her book. So what’s my take on a story set in a place that can conjure up some pretty scary images? This is what I posted on Amazon and Goodreads…
Without ever leaving the confines of my comfy chair, Rita Monette transported me back to Louisiana, circa 1956, and into 10-year-old Nikki Landry’s world. A carefully-crafted love story about a girl and her dog, Monette stirs up her brand of literary gumbo using unique smells and settings, while creating believable characters with a flavor of down-home dialogue. Add a spicy mixture of an old legend, topped with delectable mannerisms and savory Cajun slang, and you’ve got yourself one heck of a mouth-watering read for middle-graders through to adult.
The Legend of Ghost Dog Island would be a great addition in any classroom setting to learn and study about the history of the Cajun people, and life on the Louisiana bayous in mid-twentieth century. My stomach is already starting to grumble for Ms. Monette’s next installment.
Tagline and Blurb:
Behind every legend lies the truth.
Moving is nothing new for ten-year-old Nikki Landry. Her fisherman father relocates their raggedy old houseboat several times a year in search for better crabbing spots. However, their latest move has brought her to a mysterious bayou where she feels something is watching her from a nearby island.
Nikki learns of a local legend about something sinister inhabiting those swaps, stealing the souls of dogs…which would explain the strange howling sounds. Papa reassures her there’s nothing o the island but gators and snakes. He would know. He’s spent his whole life trapping and fishing those bayous and swamps. But Nikki and her new friends uncover strange happenings from years ago, that may have started the old legend, and town folks aren’t talking. Then her beloved beagle goes missing.
Join Nikki as she seeks to discover the real truth behind the legend of Ghost Dog Island…before it’s too late.
Mama closed the door behind her. She knew once Papa got going on one of his tales, there was no stopping him.
The last traces of daylight seemed to disappear in a hurry, as if Papa had ordered it away. The glass globe of the kerosene lamp clinked. He touched a match to the wick and adjusted the flame until it filled the room with pale light and gray shadows. He motioned me to sit next to him on the worn sofa.
I hurried to his side, not knowing what spooky legend he was going to tell this time. But as scared as I’d get, I always enjoyed hearing ’em.
“Mais, there’s a legend told around these parts.” That was how they always started out. He leaned down so the light from the lamp made eerie shadows across his face.
I rolled my eyes, determined not to get spooked this time.
“Folks say there’s something living out yonder,” he went on. “Legend has it the monster lures dogs to the island using evil spells. Then at the peak of the full moon, they’re turned into hollow spirits with glowing eyes.” Papa put on his eeriest sneer. “That there’s Ghost Dog Island.”
“Ghost dogs?” I pulled my knees up against my chest and wrapped my arms around ’em tight. My mind conjured up images of a huge monster with drippy fangs and dogs with bright yellow eyes. I thought about the feeling I had of something watching us. Was there really a creature out there? Did it have its eye on my best buddy? I shuddered.
IEEEOWWWOOOO-oooooooo! The howling sound echoed again across the bayou.
Rita Monette was born and raised in Southwest Louisiana. After retiring from her “real” job as an administrative assistant for the State of Michigan, Rita began doing what she always wanted to do…write and paint. Five long years later, Musa Publishing offered her a contract for her debut middle grade novel, The Legend of Ghost Dog Island, which also includes her artwork. Her stories are set in the beautiful, yet mysterious, bayous and swamps of her home state. Rita now lives with her husband, four lap dogs, and one lap cat, in the mountains of Tennessee.