Thursday, October 29, 2009

New Paulsen!

Notes from the Dog by Gary Paulsen (2009)

I don't enjoy survival-in-nasty-outdoor-condition books at all, so Gary Paulsen is not an author I select regularly. A couple of years ago, however, I laughed my way through Paulsen's The Amazing Life of Birds: The Twenty-Day Puberty Journal of Duane Homer Leech, so when I saw Notes from the Dog, I decided to give it a try. The protagonist, 14-year-old Finn, has big plans for the summer--avoiding people and reading a pile of books. He's willing to make a few exceptions: his dad, his friend Matthew who's living with him this summer, and his dog Dylan; overall, though, he's an awkward introvert. His new neighbor, twenty-something Johanna, sets him on a whole new course. She's undergoing treatment for breast cancer and soon has Finn creating a garden for her in his backyard, raising money for breast cancer research, and--shockingly--talking to more people than he ever thought possible--even girls.

This novel is an amazing, and short, trip down a very emotional road. I laughed and cried but did not feel manipulated. Paulsen is a wonderful writer who deftly handles difficult topics and leaves the reader feeling touched and thoughtful. Highly recommended for grades 6-9.

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