The Runaway

Published in 2017; author Alison Hart; illustrators Julie Kolesova and Michael Dwornik


One evening after dinner, Maryellen notices that the family's dachshund, Scooter, is missing. And he's not the only dog; at least three more are missing in the neighborhood. Furthermore, Maryellen spots the ice cream man luring a dog into his truck! Or at least, she thinks she does--she's not sure enough to report the incident to the police or anything like that. She and her friends Karen King and Karen Stohlman start an investigation. They do discover that the ice cream man has dog treats in his truck, but he says they're to entice the dogs in the neighborhood to not follow him when he drives off. But he does mention a strange care he's seen driving around with "Bark Haven" written on the side.

Maryellen makes plans to go to Bark Haven, a pet shelter, with her friend Davy. He brings along his friend, Wayne, and the three ride to the shelter, but they are brusquely turned away by a woman at the front desk. A surreptitious detour to the dogs' kennels reveals no dachshunds or other breeds matching the descriptions of the missing ones. But then they see a car labeled "Barkhaven" (not Bark Haven) along the road--and the driver trying to get a dog into it! They thwart the pet-napping and get the car's license plate, and go back to the pet shelter. Now there's a dalmatian. One of the missing dogs is a dalmatian. Maryellen takes her information to the police, but an officer warns her that even if a pet-napper is caught, there aren't many laws that would do much--pets simply aren't a priority in the 1950s.

Then Maryellen hears about dogs being used as test subjects in space flights. She has a crazy thought--could Scooter be at Cape Canaveral, training to be shot into space? Since she needs a science topic for a school project anyway, she gets her dad to take her to visit Cape Canaveral (she gets permission from a tour from the Air Force). The tour is amazing and informative, but doesn't yield any dogs: the US is focused on unmanned space flight, and no living creatures are being used as test subjects. However, the lieutenant giving the tour mentions that some animals are used to test makeup, medicine, or other such products.

When Maryellen gets home, her mother tells her that the police station called--the Barkhaven car is a stolen vehicle. Her friends Karen, Karen, and Angela arrive soon after, having just formed a detective service for missing animals. Davy and Wayne join, and soon they find themselves at Daytona Pharmaceuticals, where Scooter's collar is in the trash. Another visit to Bark Haven reveals that the owner, Miss Hopkins, suspects someone is using the Bark Haven name to steal animals and sell them for testing. She's fairly certain another clandestine delivery of animals is happening that evening. They all go to the police, who set up a sting. The police tell Maryellen and her friends to stay away, but they can't help themselves. Even Miss Hopkins and Maryellen's mother come along. Sure enough, they find the missing dogs, Scooter included.

A few days later, Maryellen's mother breaks the news that they won a jingle-writing contest, the prize being a year's supply of dog food! Maryellen immediately suggests they donate the food to Bark Haven.

Inside Maryellen's World

Entering jingle-writing contests was a big thing in the 1950s. One woman , Evelyn Ryan, won so many prizes that she was able to support her family of ten and keep them out of poverty (her story was made into the book and movie The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio). Also prevalent at the time was animal testing, including stealing animals for that purpose. While many products are still tested on animals today, laws are in place that require the animals be specifically bred for testing and be treated as humanely as possible. Many industries are shying away from testing--while some medicines need trials on living things, makeup is less likely to need animal testing.


Special thanks are given to Judy Woodburn.

Maryellen and her mother have been entering seveal jingle-writing contests. Other prizes they win include a year's supply of cereal from one, and five bike bells from another.

About ten pages in, I was reminded of Dawn and the Disappearing Dogs.

There are some grammatical errors that I think an editor should have caught, like missing commas and tense problems.

The first dog in space, Laika, died there. The Soviets didn't have the technology to bring her back at that point. Later animals returned safely, in both the Soviet and US space programs: dogs, primates, and insects.

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