A shy transplant from Michigan to California finds her footing when her neighbor’s pit bull needs training.
Hannah, a white girl with a facial birthmark, is miserable in California. Her parents, overwhelmed with new jobs and Hannah’s younger siblings, never have time for her anymore. Hannah misses her Michigan friends, too. How can she possibly make new friends when she’s so embarrassed about her birthmark and the California kids are all spending this summer before sixth grade surfing? It turns out there’s something to love in California after all, though: her elderly neighbor’s rescue pit bull puppy, Poppy. Hannah eagerly offers to take on Poppy’s training, which is how she learns that many people prejudge pit bulls unfairly as violent; the analogies between judgments of Poppy for her pit-bull build and Hannah for her birthmark are strained but mostly unobtrusive. Through the process of training Poppy, Hannah slowly gains faith in herself, if only because her lack of confidence means the dog can’t learn. She makes friends, learns to surf (with Poppy!), and loses her crushing self-loathing. All of her forward movement—and her personal setbacks—are framed in the little victories and crises of Poppy’s education. The timespan of dog training is compressed down to simplified weeks, but the principles are solid. Brave, another in this dog-oriented series, publishes simultaneously, bringing together a canine hurricane survivor and a white boy whose father is deployed in the Middle East.
This one’s for dog lovers. (Fiction. 7-10)