Back in the magical Borders days of yore, employees used to get a 40% off day once or twice a year. I spent a fortune there over years’ worth of 40% off days, but one of my best investments involved the ‘Newbery Authors’ series of books, published only occasionally but priced at $2.99. Forty percent off of $2.99 is a fairly insane price for a book by an established author; I have quite a few of these editions on my shelves, and I opted for one of them for my latest Fourth Book.
Avi is an established author with three Newberys under his belt–one Medal and two Honors. I read his Something Upstairs in 7th grade English (with Mrs. DiDonato), although whether that was because it was right around the time his two Honor books were published or because he was living in RI at the time and therefore local, I have no idea. (If I knew where she was now, I’d possibly ask her, because now I’m curious.) I encountered The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle in college, as well as a few others by him, and I’ve read Nothing But the Truth and Crispin: The Cross of Lead as part of my Newbery quest. Avi isn’t, in fact, one of my very favorite authors–his writing style isn’t so much my thing–but he tells interesting stories and keeps you hooked while he’s telling them, so he’s never been a hardship to read either. The Avi book I just finished, The Good Dog, is no exception.
The Good Dog feels like an intermediate fiction cousin to The Call of the Wild; the main character is a malamute named McKinley, and the plot revolves around what happens in his Colorado community when a wolf comes to town. Lupin has come down from her northern wilderness to recruit dogs for her dwindling wolf pack. McKinley is head dog in Steamboat Springs and finds himself trying to protect Lupin from the humans hunting her, prevent his human pup (a fan of The Jungle Book) from trying to run away to live with her, and prohibit a rival, Redburn, from using her presence to take over as head dog. How he manages it all makes for a consistently fast-paced read. And while neither the topic nor the style are what I’m normally drawn to, this is a great adventure (and animal) story. (I’m keeping my copy, because while I’m unlikely to reread it, I really need to up my quantity of “books especially likely to appeal to boys” for the sake of my son.) If I were teaching, I’d be tempted to use it as an intro to The Call of the Wild, or have my kids read this while I read the other to them, or something. The possibilities in the shared themes are endless. Since I’m not teaching, however, I will stick it on the bookshelf in one of the kids’ rooms, and wait for it to be chosen so we can talk about it.
I’ll be looking forward to it.