Meet Charlie—a collie dog like no other. Rescued from a kennel by young Marna Witherspoon, Charlie is full of questions about life and looking for answers. In Charlie’s Very Own Story, author Elizabeth Vaughan invites readers to join him in his search. Along the way, you’ll find high adventure, extraordinary insights, and so much more. In a novel reminiscent of Richard Adams’s Watership Down, Ms. Vaughan offers us a remarkable story sure to charm and delight readers.
Book Review by Carla M. Paton
It is not every day that a story like Charlie’s comes along. Here is a children’s novel that will appeal to readers of all ages, and especially those who enjoy timeless animal tales. And this novel’s similarities run a wide animal story gamut from Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small to the uprisings reminiscent of Orwell’s Animal Farm.
Since Charlie is a collie dog, the long-running TV series “Lassie” immediately comes to mind. In Vaughn’s book, however, we have a male dog and a girl owner, Marna. It is also interesting how animal stories change over the decades, and perhaps reflect some cultural shifts and changing attitudes. Lassie was forever rescuing Timmy, but the focus in Charlie’s Very Own Story, is just that. It is not a story about the dog’s owner; it is all about Charlie…about what Charlie thinks and feels. It is about his experiences, sadness, fears, animal relationships, travels, complexes, and joys.
We certainly develop a fondness for Charlie. Many readers may recognize their own dog’s traits that belie some neuroses that have come from spending too much time alone or from some puppyhood trauma. There are also many other entertaining animals that Charlie meets in his adventures. Trickster squirrels and birds in particular manage to keep Charlie on his toes or paws.
Like a Disney movie, the creatures in Vaughan’s books are fully vested with human-like powers of thoughts and emotions, and communicate with each other through language. Their internal thoughts are likewise reflected in human ways, that is to say, we read about their ideas and stream of consciousness like we read any human character’s thoughts that are told from the third person point of view. This method, of humanizing of animals, of course, requires a suspension of reality for the adult reader that some might find problematic. But, the child reader may find animal-talking fantasies much easier to embrace. Perhaps I am mistaken, but for whatever reasons, I believe that the recent trends are to accept talking animals in film, but not as much in children’s novels these days.
For those willing to embrace the fantasy; Charlie’s own story is an imaginative adventure that will captivate young readers and charm those still young in spirit.
About the Author:
A lifelong resident of St. Paul, Minnesota, Elizabeth Vaughan is a graduate of St. Paul Academy and Summit School, and the University of Minnesota who enjoys painting, reading, and, years ago, riding horses and playing other sports. She and her husband James raised two children, James Corning Vaughan and John Clifford Vaughan.
Inspired by famous author, dog breeder and journalist Mr. Albert Payson Terhune, Mrs. Vaughan has 2 children, Jim and John; she lost her husband, Mr. James A Vaughan, in 2009. An animal lover since a child, she had 2 favorite dogs named Charlie and Treve. Mrs. Vaughan also has a love for horses of which she enjoyed riding and is a trophy award-winning rider. Mrs. Vaughan is a lifelong resident of St. Paul and has spent a great deal of time at a cabin on Lake Hungry Jack on Gunflint Trail of which inspired her to write. She was educated first at St. Paul Academy Summit School in St. Paul, and then at the University of Minnesota where she earned degrees in history and art, amongst other several accomplishments. In the 1940s, Mrs. Vaughan modeled in newspaper ads for such stores as Frank Murphy, a premier fashion store since 1931.