Joshua, 11 or 12, knows all the hidden rules for making new friends, because his father is a frequently transferred Air Force recruiter.
When they arrive in rural Pennsylvania in the midst of the Vietnam War—a hard time to be a recruiter—he’s delighted when his father gets him a large (and rather unruly) dog from the pound. Jack turns out to be a Pharaoh hound, a rare breed of hunting dog. When trashcans are overturned, then a cat is killed and a horse attacked, neighbors believe Jack must be responsible, creating a witch-hunt atmosphere and doing nothing to improve Joshua’s friend-making prospects. Ray, a boy of his age, seems like a good friend-candidate, but he’s usually paired up with angry, spoiled, rich boy Prater, who plays with guns and seems to hate the newcomer from the start. Almost as bad, Joshua’s father, conscious of his own unpopular place in the community, sides more with the neighbors than with his son, leaving the boy on his own in his efforts to prove the dog’s innocence. While other characters are predictable and lightly sketched, Joshua is vividly depicted through his first-person narration and amusing interior monologues, and the conflicts he deals with are effectively realized.
In all, it's an entertaining boy-and-dog adventure set against a not-often-depicted era of political strife that’s notably similar to the present. (Historical fiction. 9-13)