When her unreliable mom is hired to cook and clean for a wealthy Alabama family, Mavis is hopeful they’ll stay long enough for her to have a best friend.
The Tullys’ daughter, Rose, is just Mavis’ age, and things looks promising, but the timid girl has been so browbeaten by her overbearing, haughty mother that she’s forgotten how to have fun. Mavis may be poor, but she has spirit enough for both of them. Rose spends most of her time with the elderly gatekeeper of Magnolia Estates, but ever since Mr. Duffy’s dog died he’s been slipping up at work, and Rose’s mother is anxious to have him fired. Mavis and Rose hatch a scheme to unite him with a stray dog they call Henry, who’s actually an escapee from Wonderland, a dog track, and who may be euthanized since his racing days are over. O’Connor, a master storyteller, presents this moving tale from the alternating viewpoints of the girls and Henry, using their unique narrative voices to craft an affecting story of loneliness and the redemptive powers of the human (and dog) spirit. The racial identities of Mr. Duffy and Mavis are kept deliberately vague (although she is pale-skinned on the cover, just like Rose), but it’s very clear that they are the underclass, evocatively contrasted against Mrs. Tully’s mistaken sense of superiority that even Rose learns to fight.
A richly satisfying exploration of the logic and determination with which children work to make things right. (Fiction 10-12)