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Literature / Shiloh

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Shiloh is a children's novel written by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor in 1991. It received the Newbery Medal award in 1992 and has three sequels: Shiloh Season, Saving Shiloh, and A Shiloh Christmas. The first three books have been adapted into movies. The books, especially the first one, are quite commonly an assigned book for reading in schools.

The story follows Marty Preston, an eleven year old boy who lives with his family in the small town of Friendly, West Virginia. One day he finds a lone beagle near his house, which follows him around and eventually goes home with him. Connecting with the dog, Marty dubs him Shiloh after an old abandoned school nearby. However, he soon learns that the beagle belongs to his drunken and somewhat violent neighbor, Judd Travers, and is forced to give Shiloh back. After seeing Judd's cruel treatment of the dog, Marty decides to take matters into his own hands and takes the dog back, caring for it in secret. Soon, he is faced with many moral and ethical problems concerning Shiloh.

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Tropes associated with this series:

  • Abusive Parents: Judd was beaten and emotionally neglected by his parents growing up. As a result, he has little compassion for others and doesn't understand why Marty is so invested in Shiloh.
  • The Alcoholic: Judd drinks a lot.
  • Ambiguous Time Period: The first book never mentions when it takes place. TVs exist yet at the same time it seems too old-fashioned for the 1990s, setting the book presumably somewhere between 1940-1970.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Dara Lynn is sometimes this to Marty.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: Judd is a ratty man who no one likes. He keeps his hunting dogs in the bare minimum conditions and sees them only as tools. He beats his dogs and starves them. It's implied he even killed one in the past.
  • Canine Companion: Shiloh serves as one to Marty.
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  • Cute Kitten: Dara Lynn is jealous that Marty is allowed to have Shiloh when she always wanted to have a kitten. In the last book, Marty tells her that they are going to get one.
  • Death by Newbery Medal: Averted throughout the series. Not only is Shiloh's life put in danger, but also Judd, and Marty's little sister. They all survive.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Judd's treatment of his dogs is seen as abhorrent, but everyone's hands are tied as Judd can legally do whatever he wants with his own dogs. This is accurate for the time period the story is set in, but this idea has become much less acceptable over time and Judd would probably be facing charges of animal cruelty in a modern setting.
  • Dog Stereotype:
    • Shiloh is a friendly Beagle who the rural main character befriends. In Shiloh's case, he's based off a real dog who the writer mistook for a Beagle when she was actually a mixed-breed.
    • An aggressive German Shepherd character appears and mauls Shiloh.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: In order to finally keep Shiloh, Marty strives to proves he deserves to keep the dog. He even buys Shiloh from Judd through his own hard labor.
  • Film of the Book: The films change some elements, such as the income of Marty's family, but they are accurate enough that the writer praised them.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Judd in the later books.
  • No Name Given: Judd refuses to name his hunting dogs and instead refers to them by numbers.
  • Precious Puppies: Shiloh is only a puppy when Marty meets him.
  • Shrinking Violet: Due to being abused by Judd, Shiloh is an unusually quiet dog. Judd claims that he was always shy. This behavior is especially odd because he's a Beagle, a breed known for being loud and energetic.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Between Dara Lynn and Marty.
  • Unusual Pets for Unusual People: Marty's friend David has a pet hermit crab. David is unusual in the setting because his parents are richer than most of their neighbors.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The driving point of the original novel is that many have the viewpoint that Shiloh is just a dog and his owner, bad or good, is the only one with the right to own him.

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