This is a honey of a book, and has so much that most books this year lack that people will welcome it jubilantly, yes even those to whom the lure of the wilderness, the feel for folk ways, is not ordinarily a factor in reading pleasure. It's a story that might easily have slopped over into sentimentality, but that manages to stay safely on the side of realism, a first rate boy story, with the hound-pup angle a somewhat tenuous thread that ties together a rather intricate pattern of adventure and folk tale. Two, things Cotton- aged twelve- wanted above all else,- a hound-pup and a chance to prowl the woods like "Blackie". That Blackie had no visible means of support, other than the gift for telling tall tales and for arriving at the psychological moment for a good meal, bothered Cotton not at all, and his heaven spilled over when Blackie invited him to go along on a coon-hunting trip. His Ma was a hurdle to take, but Pa managed it, and off Cotton goes, with his pal Spud, and Blackie and the mare. And they have their fill- and more- of adventure- and beauty — yes and romance too. For Blackie is lured by a girl's eyes, and they find themselves by chance at Fiddling Tom's house, where Blackie and Dony spark a bit. For Cotton the black pup that will have none of anyone is the high spot of the stopover, when the pup timorously chooses Cotton as his man — trails him ten miles when they leave- and, before the story ends, wins Cotton's mother to agreement. The book is rooted deep in folk ways. The Shivaree at the Wilsons', celebrating Dave's accident, is a superb bit of dramatization, right out of Lomax and Richard Chase, and perhaps most closely, Shaw, authority on cowboy dances. Comparison to The Yearling — to The Voice of Bugle Ann — to other boy and dog stories- is inevitable. Actually, Hound-Dog-Man is in a class by itself.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 1948

ISBN: 0803270054

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Harper

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1948

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Troubled teen meets totemic catalyst in Mikaelsen’s (Petey, 1998, etc.) earnest tribute to Native American spirituality. Fifteen-year-old Cole is cocky, embittered, and eaten up by anger at his abusive parents. After repeated skirmishes with the law, he finally faces jail time when he viciously beats a classmate. Cole’s parole officer offers him an alternative—Circle Justice, an innovative justice program based on Native traditions. Sentenced to a year on an uninhabited Arctic island under the supervision of Edwin, a Tlingit elder, Cole provokes an attack from a titanic white “Spirit Bear” while attempting escape. Although permanently crippled by the near-death experience, he is somehow allowed yet another stint on the island. Through Edwin’s patient tutoring, Cole gradually masters his rage, but realizes that he needs to help his former victims to complete his own healing. Mikaelsen paints a realistic portrait of an unlikable young punk, and if Cole’s turnaround is dramatic, it is also convincingly painful and slow. Alas, the rest of the characters are cardboard caricatures: the brutal, drunk father, the compassionate, perceptive parole officer, and the stoic and cryptic Native mentor. Much of the plot stretches credulity, from Cole’s survival to his repeated chances at rehabilitation to his victim being permitted to share his exile. Nonetheless, teens drawn by the brutality of Cole’s adventures, and piqued by Mikaelsen’s rather muscular mysticism, might absorb valuable lessons on anger management and personal responsibility. As melodramatic and well-meaning as the teens it targets. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2001

ISBN: 0-380-97744-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2001

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Themes of freedom and responsibility twine between the lines of this short but heavy novel from the author of Because of Winn-Dixie (2000). Three months after his mother's death, Rob and his father are living in a small-town Florida motel, each nursing sharp, private pain. On the same day Rob has two astonishing encounters: first, he stumbles upon a caged tiger in the woods behind the motel; then he meets Sistine, a new classmate responding to her parents' breakup with ready fists and a big chip on her shoulder. About to burst with his secret, Rob confides in Sistine, who instantly declares that the tiger must be freed. As Rob quickly develops a yen for Sistine's company that gives her plenty of emotional leverage, and the keys to the cage almost literally drop into his hands, credible plotting plainly takes a back seat to character delineation here. And both struggle for visibility beneath a wagonload of symbol and metaphor: the real tiger (and the inevitable recitation of Blake's poem); the cage; Rob's dream of Sistine riding away on the beast's back; a mysterious skin condition on Rob's legs that develops after his mother's death; a series of wooden figurines that he whittles; a larger-than-life African-American housekeeper at the motel who dispenses wisdom with nearly every utterance; and the climax itself, which is signaled from the start. It's all so freighted with layers of significance that, like Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue (2000), Anne Mazer's Oxboy (1995), or, further back, Julia Cunningham's Dorp Dead (1965), it becomes more an exercise in analysis than a living, breathing story. Still, the tiger, "burning bright" with magnificent, feral presence, does make an arresting central image. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7636-0911-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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