A sweet pit bull mix recounts losing his home and family during a hurricane in this sequel.
From the moment he first rides home in the arms of his “boy” (named Gavin), the little brindle-patterned puppy learns to love and trust the humans in his life. But the canine signals early in the novel that heartbreak lies ahead. Describing Gavin’s touch, he says: “Over our years together, I trusted those hands. Even when I learned to hate the boy, I loved his hands.” It will take weeks for Gavin to select a name for his new best friend. Then, one summer day, while the boy dozes by a Louisiana fishing creek, an alligator creeps on shore and is about to attack. Gavin is awakened in the nick of time by his puppy’s fierce barking. He names the pooch Gator. Before their first year together is over, Gavin, his friend Jeremy, and Gator discover a filthy, illegal puppy mill in the woods. In one of the cages, Gator spots a small female canine who will win his lifetime love and devotion: “My eyes settled on one golden-red fur ball in an end cage nearest us.” In a hair-raising, action-packed scene, a man from the kennel discovers Gator and tries to kill him until the boys fight him off. Law enforcement agents raid the kennel, and the little dog who has lived her whole life in a cage is named Magnolia and joins Gator and his family. Life is good for several years until an unnamed hurricane hits and the levee breaks. When Gavin and his parents are finally rescued by boat, they are forced to leave Gator and Magnolia behind. This absorbing and moving canine tale should appeal to a middle-grade and YA audience. Cute black-and-white drawings by Lester introduce each chapter. Through Gator’s emotional voice, Weber deftly captures the deep trauma experienced by the many pets displaced by natural disasters in an era when people were not allowed to bring their furry companions into shelters with them. And the poignant lessons Gator learns during his painful journey deliver the narrative’s implicit, positive messages: forgive and keep an open mind about others.
An engaging mix of adventure, anguish, and renewed hope for animal lovers.
Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2019
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Pups and Purrs Press
Review Posted Online: April 9, 2020
In this middle-grade novel, an Australian shepherd poignantly relates his mistreatment as a puppy, the love and companionship he finds with a caring owner and other rescued animals, and his life’s surprising last chapter.
Dog lovers be warned: You’ll need to keep the tissues handy while reading the saga of an Australian shepherd’s life and death (and beyond). Told in the heart-tugging voice of Aussie Max, Weber’s (Beyond Flight or Fight: A Compassionate Guide for Working with Fearful Dogs, 2015) novel begins when Max is taken from his mother as a puppy. Relegated to his first human family’s shade-free, barren backyard, Max is subject to increasing neglect. His only moments of affection and companionship come when the family’s unhappy young son occasionally plays outside with him. After a painful encounter with a neighbor’s aggressive dog, Max is beaten and hauled off to an animal shelter, where, confused and depressed, he is marked for death. Life turns around when Max is adopted by a caring, dog-savvy new owner. Gradually adjusting to his extended new family of rescued dogs and cats, he finds his calling as a champion in agility competitions. Weber believably shadows Max’s triumphs and sunny times over the years with a tragedy that befalls his beloved feline companion and with the emotional scars that linger due to the Aussie’s harrowing start in life. The author also doesn’t sugarcoat Max’s last challenge: his wrenching, graphically depicted last illness. Yet Weber never makes Max’s plight feel gratuitous. This touching narrative, with its colorful characters and humane message, conveys Weber’s own love for animals and her experiences with animal rescue and the loss of a pet. And, although readers may go through an emotional wringer throughout, Weber leaves her audience with the comfort of a cathartic last chapter that involves a trip over the “Rainbow Bridge,” joyous reunions, and Max’s new job, tailor-made just for him.
Movingly conveys a resonant message of empathy for mistreated and abandoned animals.
Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2017
Page count: 246pp
Publisher: Pups and Purrs Press
Review Posted Online: April 30, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018
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