This deftly plotted story will engage readers of both genders with its fresh storyline.
When 12-year-old Luke Riley’s mother is killed in a lightning-related accident, Luke’s fear of severe weather is heightened and his grief is exacerbated by guilt, as he believes it was his panicked phone call to his mother that caused her to be out in the storm. Luke’s father and older twin brothers, lost in their own grief, ignore him (in his father’s case) or tease him mercilessly (in his brothers’). To make matters worse, Luke doesn’t want the gift of a bloodhound puppy his father offers him for his 13th birthday; he wants a papillon puppy. Luke’s father, a respected search-and-rescue professional, will not hear of it. Luke gets a job working at a neighboring kennel ostensibly to earn a bloodhound puppy, but he picks a papillon puppy instead, keeping it secret. Then Luke’s new friend at the kennel, Megan, and Megan’s father go missing in a storm, and Luke must confront both his fear of severe weather and his deception. Intertwining family relationships, weather science and search-and-rescue dog training, this coming-of-age story relays themes of friendship, grief, challenge, fear and responsibility without didacticism or melodrama.
A welcome addition to the middle-grade library. (Adventure. 9-13)