Robbie, perhaps 9 or 10 years old, is a bit of a sobersides, a solemn young narrator, given to adult tone and phrasing in his spare, first-person, present-tense account of an unexpected adventure.
Robbie seems to withhold something of himself, unsure whether to trust his feelings even as he resents and longs for his similarly contained, talented mother. Robbie’s parents leave him and Ellie, his well-behaved dog, with Maddy, his grandmother, as they depart for a concert tour with his mother’s string quartet. Maddy has the ability to attract and communicate peacefully with the wild creatures of the forest, and it troubles Robbie that his parents find her eccentricity worrisome. And though the dog remembers Maddy’s doughnut dinner, apparently Maddy has forgotten ever meeting the dog when she quizzes Robbie about Ellie before their arrival. The stay at Maddy’s house becomes an inadvertent test of Robbie’s ability to trust as well as to meet a challenge when his grandmother is injured on an overnight camping trip and a bear comes close to camp. In learning that he can rely on his own strengths (“small truths,” as Henry puts it) Robbie also finds that he is able to be generous with his love.
Some readers may find the gentle pace lacking in excitement, but for others, Robbie’s quietly affecting observations will feel like truth. (Fiction. 8-10)