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Children's Fiction Dogs

What the Dog Knows

by (author) Sylvia McNicoll

Dundurn Press
Initial publish date
May 2022
Dogs, General, Time Travel
Recommended Age
9 to 12
Recommended Grade
4 to 7
Recommended Reading age
9 to 12
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    May 2022
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    May 2022
    List Price

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Naomi’s dog Diesel returns from the afterlife with one mission — can he save her?

It’s Naomi’s worst summer ever. Her dog, Diesel, died. Dad lost his job. Mom and Dad split up. The family is broke, and Naomi is stuck babysitting when she planned to take swimming lessons. Then Naomi’s sometime-friend Morgan convinces her to jump off a dock. On July 1 at precisely 4:30, when Naomi drowns, destiny shifts.

Naomi awakes a week earlier to Diesel talking to her. Through his canine counsel, he wants to show her how to fix things. “I can save you,” he barks. But no matter how often Naomi resets her watch, the time and date keep flipping back to July 1 at 4:30, which makes her wonder: Is my time running out?

About the author

Sylvia McNicoll wrote her first book, Blueberries and Whipped Cream, as a project for a college writing course in order to explore a tragedy that occurred in her own high school. She went on to teach creative writing at that same college for nine years, edit a parenting magazine for another eight years and write 29 more novels for a variety of age groups.
Most acclaimed are her three dog guide fostering stories: Bringing Up Beauty, Beauty Returns and A Different Kind of Beauty, which won and were nominated for many children's choice awards. Last Chance for Paris, her adventure book set on the ice fields of Columbia, explored ecological issues with glaciers before climate warming became a popular issue.
Her recent novel, Crush. Candy. Corpse, tells the story about a teen on trial for the manslaughter of an Alzheimer's patient. Reviewers and bloggers have declared it a must read for all high school students. In her thirtieth book Death Goes Viral, already a blockbuster hit in Norway, Sweden and Finland, Sylvia returns to the theme of life and death and the values our own mortality inspires in us.

Sylvia McNicoll's profile page


  • Short-listed, Hamilton Literary Awards, Children's Book Award
  • Commended, CCBC's Best Books for Kids and Teens, Starred Selection (Fall 2022)

Excerpt: What the Dog Knows (by (author) Sylvia McNicoll)

Chapter 1
Thursday, July 1: Waiting for Relief

Do you ever regret something so hard that you play it over in your head a million times, with a million different endings except for the one that actually happened? Last week a car killed my dog, Diesel. My fault. I should have taken him babysitting with me — he loved my cousin Luanne. I see myself making sure the gate latches properly behind me and that there are no holes under the fence Diesel can dig through to escape. I picture the Smart Car that hit him braking or scooting around him, and I see Diesel bounding after me, safe, ears flying behind him like flags in the wind.

Instead, here I sit on my aunt’s stoop holding my fifteen-month- old cousin, rocking her back and forth, hoping the milk in her bottle will last till her mom comes home. July 1, Canada Day. We won’t be picnicking at the beach like in other years. Everyone’s working — “Service industry, what are you going to do?” Mom says — and it’s too hot, same as every day since the beginning of June.

“Hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk,” Dad used to say. Then last month he decided to prove it.

“Scientifically impossible,” Mom said as she reached for the carton of eggs on the counter. “Besides, I’m the only one around here who ever fries any eggs.”

Dad, teasing her and trying to make her laugh, I suppose, scooped the carton away from her and ran outside. “You bring that back! I’m making breakfast.”

Too late. The door slammed behind him. Diesel and I ran to watch as he knelt down on our walkway, removed one egg, and cracked it on the cement.

“You’re wasting food!” Mom hollered from the window.

The egg collected dirt as it pooled into a groove. Dad cracked another on the driveway. That one ran down into the street.

“Stop it!” Mom yelled.

Diesel barked.

“Sunny side up,” Dad called and broke open a couple more on the hood of the car. Those slid off.

The edges of one egg on the roof of our old Neon clunker finally turned white. “It’s working!” I cheered.

“We don’t have money for this!” Mom cried as that one slid down the windshield.

Dad should have stopped then and made pancakes for us all with the last two in the carton. Maybe then we could have just had a laugh together. But instead he went inside for tinfoil and a magnifying glass. That method might have worked in a couple of hours. But Diesel quickly licked those up as Dad scrubbed the rest off the car. Meanwhile, Mom packed Dad’s clothes in a suitcase, which she pitched out the door.

“When you learn to act like a grown-up, you can come back.”

If only he had made her breakfast instead. She would have forgiven the big screen Dad gave her for their anniversary earlier that morning — heck, she loves watching movies. We would still be together. Even Diesel, ’cause I wouldn’t have had to babysit Luanne. Mom wouldn’t have found that job at Donut Time, and she’d have been minding Luanne instead of me.

That’s me imagining everything that month going a different way. I regret it all.

Editorial Reviews

A lovely story about the messiness of families and learning to trust and believe in yourself. Most of all, it’s a story about friendship — both the two- and four-legged kind.

Susin Nielsen, author of Tremendous Things

I can't think of a category of reader who won't love this book. Sylvia McNicoll has done it again.

CM Magazine

Sylvia McNicoll has once again crafted a story filled with heart. An entertaining story about finding friends — human and furry — who see the real you.

Colleen Nelson, author of Harvey Comes Home

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