This is another sad book with a dog on the cover—but it isn’t a story about a dog.
Veronica faces a couple of major challenges at the beginning of sixth grade. One is that she has chosen to attend a private, all-girls day school in New York City, where she lives with her psychiatrist parents. She hasn’t had much success socially, and Randolf doesn’t look like a promising opportunity to up her friend count—currently a total of just one, and she’s a far-from-satisfactory companion. The other problem is that she would do just about anything to become the owner of a beagle for sale at a local pet store. When a pair of popular girls begins to take a mild interest in her and her parents buy the beloved puppy, it seems that all will be well. But things quickly fall apart: The girls are manipulative and self-focused, and her puppy has a congenital disease. Veronica’s deep, unrelenting grief is vividly portrayed, along with her bumbling but kindly parents’ efforts to redirect her back to happiness. In sharp contrast to the sad themes that permeate this quiet tale, a strong vein of humor—springing mainly from Veronica’s often ironic and feisty attitude—relieves the raw suffering without undermining its power.
Readers will find this journey back to contentment both fully believable and emotionally resonant. (Fiction. 9-13)