NOTES FROM A LIAR AND HER DOG by Gennifer Choldenko


Age Range: 10 - 14
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Sixth-grader Antonia “Ant” MacPherson, a difficult middle-child with “thick, straight dark hair and skin the color of a brown paper grocery bag,” feels like an ugly duckling among her blond mother and sisters. She lies routinely to champion her tiny elderly dog, Pistachio, and her chicken-loving artist friend and classmate Harrison. Bright (she’s selected to compete on her school’s math team), funny, prickly, and defensive, Ant composes letters to her “real” parents and looks for an ally in Just Carol (“Not Ms. or Miss or Mrs. Anything”), the young art teacher who befriends Harrison and Ant. Ant has lived nearly two years in the California city of Sarah’s Road, but frequent moves have left scars on the family. At 12, Ant nurtures a painful relationship with her mother, who seems to diminish and insult her almost unconsciously: “She sees a weed growing in the lawn and . . . she just can’t stop herself from swooping down and snatching it out . . . I will always be a weed to her. I am all wrong.” Just Carol takes Harrison and Ant to volunteer at the city’s zoo, but Ant sabotages the day by concealing Pistachio in her jacket pocket so she can keep his medication on schedule. When the feisty dog escapes and tries to take on a lion, Carol—furious with Ant—lies about the uproar in the lion’s enclosure to protect her volunteer job. Ant’s loneliness and pain ring true but we don’t get a complex sense of Ant’s interior life, despite the first-person narrative. The convergence of plot points is disjointed; even a vigilant reader may be baffled about the timeline. A climactic return visit to the zoo (Pistachio nearly becomes lion-food again, and Ant puts herself in harm’s way to save him) blunts the emotional impact of chapters near the end where Ant achieves a truce with her mother. Lots of ingredients but only moderately satisfying results. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: May 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-399-23591-4
Page count: 244pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2001


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