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Elf Dog and Owl Head


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Year Published

Book Review

Clay can’t see his friends because of a virus that has shut down the world. But then he meets a strange dog that leads him to magical places he could never find on his own.

Plot Summary

Clay O’Brian’s life, like everyone else’s, has been turned upside-down. A global plague has rocked the world and locked Clay away from his friends. The summer promises to be a terrible one, what with his annoying sisters and worried parents being the only people he can see in person. So he often retreats into the nearby woods.

One day, Clay stumbles across an extraordinary dog. He brings her home, and the two begin to go on daily walks through the forest.

But Clay quickly realizes that the dog is no ordinary animal. The pooch—named Elphinore—is magical, enabling him to walk between worlds. Eliphinore even introduces him to the Owl-head people. And even though the boy is very much an outsider, Clay becomes friends with an Owl-head youth named Amos.

But while these journeys are magical indeed, they come with complications.

Clay learns that Elphinore is a royal elf hound owned by the cruel and proud People Under the Mountain. Worse yet, some other Owl-head people find out about Amos and Clay’s friendship: Clay is banned from seeing Amos ever again.

When Clay gets grounded, his sister DiRossi starts taking Elphinore on walks and discovering the secrets of the forest. Amos sees her and gives her a message: Have Clay come to the Midsummer’s Eve celebration in disguise. When the night comes, Clay and DiRossi join the celebration, dancing among the creatures of the forest. However, not everyone at the celebration is friendly.

When the People Under the Mountain discover their lost elf hound, they reclaim her. Clay realizes that he must find a way to outsmart the powerful magic from under the mountain and rescue his dog before it’s too late.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

Wizards, sorcerers, zombies, multiple universes and many other mythical creatures are mentioned. Magic is used throughout the story, including to turn a sweater into a sheep and a work shirt into a dinosaur.

Authority Roles

Clay’s parents are worried about money and try to keep the family happy, but everyone is fighting and sick of being cooped up. The Master of the Hunt and the other People Under the Mountain are cruel and mean—especially to the dogs under their “care.” The Owl-head people punish their youth with lashes.

Profanity & Violence

Dogs hunt and kill beasts for sport. Clay thinks that he would rather die in a pit than play with his sisters, and he calls one of his sisters a jerk. Elphinore fights the work-shirt-turned-dinosaur. Amos gets lashes for befriending Clay. DiRossi tells Juniper (Clay’s other sister) that giant rocks might squash her flat.

Amos describes how the People Under the Mountain were once at war. A wyrm attacks and injures Clay and Elphinore. Amos tells a story of a prince who tried to commit suicide. DiRossi plays violent video games. The Master of the Hunt kicks Elphinore several times. People Under the Mountain destroy a house. Drunkenness and champagne are mentioned. A squire beats Elphinore with a rod. Amos bashes the squire over the head with a rod. Dogs bite and scratch Clay.

Sexual Content

The story mentions in passing that the Duchess of the Lake of Wishes is in a romantic relationship with a woman called the Spirit of the River of Time and Shadow.

Discussion Topics

Clay and his siblings struggled to get along. Read Proverbs 15:1. What do you fight about most with your siblings? What could you do to fight less?

DiRossi didn’t feel like her family understood her. How can you work on understanding other people’s points of view? How can you better communicate how you’re thinking and feeling to your family and friends?

Juniper wanted to be included in what her older siblings were doing. How can you try to include younger siblings, cousins, or new kids at school in your life?

Additional Comments

Elf Dog and Owl Head introduces readers to a creative world that might interest fantasy lovers. However, many of the characters are cruel and misguided, and the kids in the O’Brian family tend to struggle to have good attitudes and get along.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not necessarily their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Review by Rachel Pfeiffer