Austin, Maggie, and West Highland white terrier Harvey are all back for a second outing following Harvey Comes Home (2019).
Can Nelson follow her excellent debut for middle-grade readers with another fine effort? Last time, Austin found the missing Harvey but, desperate for a dog of his own, held on to him longer than he should have, leaving rightful owner Maggie with ambivalent feelings toward the middle schooler. Those have not gone away. Needing to do community service, she chooses the retirement home where Austin volunteers, not expecting to find two fast friends there: Austin, who turns out to be a kindred spirit, and Mrs. Fradette, a feisty elder. She tells Maggie tales from her challenging youth, crafting another story within a story, as in Harvey Comes Home. Surprisingly, since this seems at first to merely re-create the earlier novel, a fresh tale emerges. Maggie’s struggling to find a place all her own with her two BFFs, who seem to be pushing her away, and Mrs. Fradette tells of striving to find her right place—becoming an auto mechanic—as a youth in 1950, not a common story but eminently believable. Characters, likely the white default, are lovingly developed, resulting in a deeply engaging coming-of-age story. Anderson’s soft, pencil illustrations set up each chapter.
Another fine effort that wraps up some loose ends but also explores worthy new ground.(Fiction. 9-12)