When wildfires threaten their home, 11-year-old Cara and her family flee, unintentionally leaving Cara’s dog, Mike, behind in this middle-grade novel in first-person, present-tense verse.
When she was 9, Cara picked out Mike from the shelter, eschewing the adorable goldendoodle puppies and setting her heart instead on a one-eyed grown-up mutt despite her parents’ misgivings. Green does a marvelous job of using backstory to deepen the commitment and love between dog and girl—Cara’s insecurities about school, her older sister, and her need for the stability provided by her crossword-puzzle routine are all soothed by Mike’s unflagging loyalty. But when wildfires rage close and the family has 10 minutes to leave, Mike goes missing. The skillful narrative turns white-knuckle tense as taut verse describes the family fleeing on a road clogged with cars and burning trees, while Cara desperately scans the roadside for Mike. Reaching safety, the family is hosted by the Bains, a brown-skinned couple with a white foster daughter, Jewel. (Cara and her family are implied white.) Jewel and Cara put a notice about Mike on the internet and notify shelters, but as the days tick by and Mike remains missing, Cara faces the wrenching possibility that he is gone—just as, as her family finds out, their house is gone and just as her best friend Heather, who is moving away, will soon be gone.
Tense, heartwarming, and masterful. (Fiction. 8-11)