A shelter dog is given a chance to become a search-and-rescue dog.
Ember, a yellow Lab mix, is a tiny puppy when she is rescued from a house fire by dark-skinned firefighter Marcus and brought to a shelter. But after the third adoptive family returns her, Jo, the shelter director, on a hunch, calls a ranch that trains SAR dogs, and they agree to give Ember a try. Authors Mason and Stephens go into copious but interesting detail about the procedure of training SAR dogs, but the many human characters the plot introduces are dizzying: The ranch is peopled by interracial parents Georgia (a trilingual Eritrean German immigrant) and Martin (a white American), their four biracial children, Latinx handler/trainer Pedro, and white dog-trainer Roxanne. The children, especially, have their own tangential subplots, which has the effect of diffusing, rather than focusing, the plot. This wandering focus is not helped by the narrative point of view, which switches from character to character, often within scenes. The story finds its footing again when Marcus (who by coincidence is at the ranch training to be a SAR handler) and Ember reconnect to become a team. Kudos to the story’s easy character diversity and equity in gender roles, but the pace can be meandering, and eagerly anticipated action doesn’t appear until the last 50 pages.
Competent, if somewhat rambling. (Fiction. 9-14)