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by Arnold Adoff & illustrated by Catherine Deeter

Age Range: 5 - 8

Pub Date: April 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-15-266367-3
Publisher: Harcourt

A touching story about two girls, two dogs, and the way in which the girls deal with the deaths of their beloved pets. Inspired by the death of his own pet, Adoff (Touch the Poem, see below, etc.) tells the story of Pepper and Belle, best friends who live in neighboring houses out in the country. The girls and their dogs, Rex and Ethel, are all close, spending most of their free time together. One day, during a hot, hot summer, Belle and Pepper look for their pets in the backyard and find that both dogs (now quite old) have died peacefully. The families jointly hold a solemn funeral, and the dogs are buried together under a beautiful tree. The next day Pepper and Belle start working on a living tribute, which they dub “The Rex and Ethel Memorial Rest Stop,” a sanctuary for all the animals in the neighborhood. The relationships between the two girls, between the girls and the dogs, and between the dogs themselves are well-drawn and affecting. Although the story has the girls bouncing back awfully quickly (they look positively cheerful the day following the deaths), there is no question that the bond these girls had with their pets was very special. The book is written in Adoff’s “shaped speech” style, a technique of writing that’s halfway between poetry and prose, using a wide variety of spacing between words, and indentations in the margins to further the meaning of the story. The illustrations are uneven—while the faces of the girls are wooden, with glazed-over eyes and unnatural expressions, the landscapes are evocative and interesting. A useful book for when a pet (or a person) dies, especially for those who feel that taking some sort of positive action has a healing effect. (Picture book. 5-8)