In the hands of a less-talented author, the story of a half-wild dog and the heartbroken girl who tames him might have descended into saccharine sentimentality. Luckily, Tolan's tale, although somewhat predictable, is well-written and engaging. Charlene, known as Charley, is a sixth-grader recovering from the effects of a recent car accident and still unable to accept the death of her mother two years earlier. Cared for by her distant, workaholic father and a housekeeper, Charley resents the changes in her life and initially resists her father's attempts to encourage her to spend more time outdoors. When she sees a strange dog, however, her interest is piqued and she begins to exercise regularly in her efforts to get close to him. Tolan's decision to use the present tense adds suspense and immediacy. The long, drawn-out process of taming the dog, which Charley names Coyote, is clearly described and will likely enthrall dog lovers. Charley's emotional recovery is handled more delicately, allowing readers to discern thematic parallels without feeling manipulated. Touching and heartwarming. (Fiction. 11-14) Read full book review >
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