After the grandmother she has always lived with has a stroke, 12-year-old Poppy Parker faces tough tasks: She is asked to identify a murderer, and a dog she’s fallen in love with will be put down if she can’t prove its worth.
Poppy has never forgiven her parents for taking a job in Botswana and getting killed there. Her now-hospitalized grandmother is really the only parent she’s ever known. Through a series of bad decisions, the distraught girl becomes a vital witness in a murder case and is endangered because she told the armed robber her name. Detective Trey Brannigan removes her from the children’s shelter where she’s spent a week and a half and sends her to stay with his mother, Marti. Through her, she meets Carol, who runs the Spokane Animal Shelter, her wayward daughter, Lizzie, and Gunner, a German shepherd who bit a small boy. Angry Lizzie becomes a friend, and training Gunner gives Poppy something to do with her days while she waits, worrying about her Grandma Beth and whether she will be returned to the shelter if she helps the police capture the killer. There are harsh and scary moments and hard truths to be sad about in this modern family tale, but appropriately for the audience, it ends positively, both for dog and child.
All the pieces come together for an emotionally satisfying read. (Fiction. 9-12)