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Stories About Dogs and People

by Betsy Hearne

Age Range: 10 - 14

Pub Date: March 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-689-85258-4
Publisher: McElderry

Dogs and peoples’ lives intertwine in 12 short stories spun from Hearne’s personal or peripheral experiences, in which the deepest emotional and physical struggles experienced by the protagonist are paralleled in the dog’s outlook. The first story in the collection, “Lab,” maintains this strong relationship wherein the protagonist, Willa, struggles with her maternal relationship until that one dark and dangerously stormy night, when mom gives birth just when the storm cuts off contact with the world. In the meantime, one-eyed Millie, Willa’s beloved pet Labrador, watches over three newborn kittens whose mother has died. Dogs are not biologically meant to tend kittens, and Willa is no labor and delivery specialist, but they both learn and channel their efforts for the welfare of new life. In the next to the last story, “The Boss,” wherein a brindled Staffordshire pit bull is as hungry to be free of capture as Sly is to evade the gangs in the city; neither gets far when home is not an option, making their future uncertain. Each of the 12 stories features a teen narrator, either first or third person omniscient, coming from different perspectives, voices, and pathos. Whether the telling is funny or poignant, uplifting or pitiful, each dog’s emergence into the scene affects a change, promotes a hope, or signals a loss. The narrator’s voices are captured perfectly, as each short story chimes to the rhythm and vocabulary best suited for the unique characters involved. Best of all, Hearne writes the concerns and challenges of teens as if each word came from their hearts. No dog-loving teen will want to miss the connection. (afterword) (Fiction. 10-14)