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Joe Friedman was born in Chicago to deaf parents. He has written stories since he was seven and sold his first play at 13. He currently lives in north London and divides his time between writing and working as a psychotherapist. Boobela and Worm is his first book for children.
A Q&A with Joe about his novel, The Secret Dog
Do you have a favourite character in the book? Almost all of the main characters have been inspired by people I got to know or heard about on Skye – Yvonne, the vet, Calum, etc. – and my affection for the real people is, I think, present in how I’ve written the characters. Josh is more of an invention, but one very much based on my experience with patients who have been traumatised by the loss of their mother early in their lives.
What was your inspiration to write this story?
It was a late night conversation in Skye, between the old Skye vet, Neil Stephenson, and my friend Joe, that gave me the idea for a boy who was inspired by a vet to take care of small injured animals on the common. The book developed from this.
What is your favourite scene or moment in the book? It’s all my baby so there is much about the book I love, but the moments I find most emotionally satisfying are those in which Josh makes an emotional connection with people – Yvonne, his mum, and the final big scene with Calum, where he really begins to grow up.
If you could swap lives with one of your characters, who would you choose and why? This is an interesting question. My first thought was the vet, but then I thought of the day I spent following a vet around, and the places they had to put their hands . . . I think Josh has a pretty good life.
If your book was a film, who would you cast for the lead character? I’m hoping to get a chance to do this! The boy in Boyhood has now grown up, but I think he would have done rather well eight years ago!
What inspired you to become a writer? I’ve written since I was a boy – at first, rather unoriginal versions of comic books I’d read, e.g. about a man with superpowers who wore tights etc. I co-wrote a play with a friend at age ten which we put on in our class at school and then sold. I became editor of my high school newspaper, and at university I wrote a number of plays which won awards at the University of Michigan. So writing, in different forms, has been part of my life since I was young. The idea of writing for children only occurred to me when I had a child myself!
Good dog stories are irresistible and this one has everything that young readers want. Josh is living on a Scottish island with his crofter uncle following the death of his mother. He loves the island and its wildlife, often nursing sick creatures back to health. When he finds an abandoned puppy he takes it home, despite his uncle’s strict ‘no pets’ policy. Josh decides he’ll train the puppy to be a working dog and names her Reggae, after his mum’s favourite music. Bringing up Reggae stirs memories of his mum, and boy and dog develop a special bond. It also forces Josh to make new friends, something he’s never been good at. A genuinely heart-warming read and a very satisfying story, especially for readers who dream of living in the country. ~ Andrea Reece A Piece of Passion from Andrew Simmons, Editorial Manager, Birlinn The Secret Dog is a fantastic book for young readers which works on a number of levels, and this is something that makes reading it such a rewarding experience. Firstly, it deals with some serious themes – bereavement, coming to terms with moving to a completely new environment, falling behind at school, and bullying. At the same time it’s also an incredibly heart-warming story about a young boy growing in confidence and maturity and discovering the path he wants to follow in life. And finally, it’s an exciting story. Joe Friedman is an extraordinarily accomplished writer who can really hold your interest, create tension and maintain momentum. As the story unfolds you won’t be able to stop reading until the two burning questions – will Josh and Reggae bring off their audacious gamble, and will the villain be uncovered and get his comeuppance? – have been answered.
A World Book Day 'Recommended Read' for 2011 A charming story about a shy young giant who is lonely because everyone runs away from her as she seems so frightening. Luckily Boobela has a friend Worm who is clever, witty and brave. In this second story the two friends have an argument. Will they be able to make it up again? Boobela and Worm is also by the same author.
A charming story about a shy young giant who is lonely because everyone runs away from her as she seems so frightening. Luckily Boobela has a friend Worm who is clever, witty and brave. In this second story the two friends have an argument. Will they be able to make it up again? Boobela and Worm is also by the same author.
A little girl who has grown into a giantess and a worm make an unlikely pair of friends but, after an almost disastrous start, Boobela and Worm just click. Boobela is shy and lonely, Worm is courageous and wise. Soon they are inseparable and together they have some wonderful and unusual adventures. An original and easy to read collection of stories which captures the warmth and importance of friendship.
After the death of his mother, eleven-year-old Josh goes to live with his uncle, Calum, who has a farm on a remote island. Uprooted and lonely, Josh finds solace in his love of animals. So one day, when he finds a tiny Border collie pup left to drown in the river, he decides to rescue it and keep it as his own. But money is scarce and a dog that can't earn her keep would not be welcome by Calum, and Josh must raise his new friend, Reggae, in secret. As the pup grows and demands more attention, Josh's schoolwork suffers, despite the help of the local vet's daughter, Yvonne. Josh must decide as well what to do with Raggae - he cannot keep her hidden forever - and decides that he will train her for the local sheepdog trials. But the training is tough and time-consuming. Can Josh and Reggae bring it off in time? All is going well until someone discovers Josh's secret and will stop at nothing to ruin their chances ...