But did you know it has a sequel? And that sequel is not The 102 Dalmations?
I read The Starlight Barking once, at about age nine. It stuck with me. Why, you might ask? Because it was seriously fucked up.
Today I'm going to tell you what I remember, from one reading 22 years ago, of this classically messed-up children's book. Then I'll read the Wikipedia article about it and compare. Who knows? Maybe I made the whole thing up.
In The One Hundred and One Dalmations (1956), Smith creates "the starlight barking," a twilight-time doggie internet, when all the dogs all over the world bark to share news and gossip. Pongo (the father dalmation) finds his puppies by getting the message out that they're missing during the starlight barking, and eventually hears back that some crazy lady out on a farm somewhere has an unusual number of dalmation puppies. Cruella de Vil; rescue attempts; 101 dalmation puppies - you know how this goes.
For the sequel (1967), however, Smith goes totally and utterly off-piste. One morning all the dogs in some city... London? wake up to discover that everyone not a dog has been frozen in place. The starlight barking confirms that this is a world-wide phenomenon. Naturally, canine chaos ensues; the dogs run around and get into fights and rocket up and down the streets and parks to their hearts' content. Inevitably they get bored. And then a spaceship appears! It's filled with dogs! A spokes-alien-dog descends and explains: dogs are an alien race that were sent to Earth millenia ago as an experiment, to see what this "human" creature was all about. The experiment's over now; all the dogs can go home to, uh, dog-planet. (I don't remember, but I'll bet it revolves around the star Sirius.)
So all the dogs in all the world discuss the situation, via the starlight barking. Ultimately the decide to remain on Earth, as life's pretty good and humans are okay. The alien-dogs get back into their spaceship and buzz off. The rest of the planet unfreezes. Life gets back to normal.
Bizarre, isn't it? Let's see what Wikipedia has to say:
A day of enchantments for the Dalmatians of the first book begins when the Dalmatians wake up and find all the humans and other animals in an unnaturally deep sleep. They hear the barking of Cadpig, carrying all the way from London, where she has become the Prime Minister's pet. She informs them reports from all over the country reveal the same phenomenon, and summons delegate dogs to London. They travel to London by "swooshing", described as gliding just off the ground.
Pongo and Missus decide to investigate Cruella de Vil to see if she's behind the mysterious events. Joined by Tommy and the white Persian cat, who are "honorary dogs", and a few dogs, they arrive at her house, where the doors magically open for them. However, they find her fast asleep like all the other humans on earth. The dogs then travel to Trafalgar Square where they are addressed from the top of Nelson's Column by Sirius, Lord of the Dog Star, an extraterrestrial dog. Every dog perceives him as a dog of his own breed. Sirius invites them all to travel back to his home where they will be safe from the dangers of nuclear war on Earth, not to mention the whims and potential abuse of humans. Some dogs are for this, some against, but in the end all the dogs agree that Pongo, known for his braininess and heroism, should make the decision.
Pongo joins in a conference with Cadpig and her "cabinet" discussing whether to go with Sirius or not. Then three skinny, mixed-breed strays arrive and ask to be heard. Pongo is sure that they will want to go with Sirius, but they want to stay on earth and someday have owners of their own. Pongo tells Sirius the dogs cannot abandon their humans and the Dog Star sadly accepts the decision. Before he leaves, he grants every dog the power to reach his home before the humans wake up. All the stray dogs take the opportunity to go to the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.
Hey, not bad! I'd forgotten about all the magic stuff. Bonus points for guessing that "Sirius" would show up, but I lose most of those points for assuming Sirius would be the alien-dog home planet. I still feel sure that the Earth dogs were originally colonists from the alien-dog planet, but a cursorial Web sweep can't confirm that.
I must admit, however, that I'd misremembered the title as The Twilight Barking.
Have you ever read The Starlight Barking? What are your half-remembered books?