May 27, 2010

How to Steal a Dog

How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor.

This one is a grabber.  The cover makes you look twice.  The title makes you pick it up.  You turn to the first page and get smacked with this first sentence:

"The day I decided to steal a dog was the same day my best friend, Luanne Godfrey, found out I lived in a car."

You can't help but keep on reading, right?  And at an easy-to-swallow 170 pages this hits the reluctant reader/animal lover/read aloud trifecta.

Basic plot is about a girl, her little brother and their mother who have recently suffered a devastating financial and emotional loss when their no-good father skedaddles and they have been kicked out of their apartment.  Mom is working two jobs and doing the best she can but when the girl, Georgina, sees an old lost dog poster with a reward she gets in her head to steal some rich person's dog and wait for a reward to be offered.

It's really about the choices we make and the stress that can be involved when it's hard to figure out what's right, what's wrong and what's the most important thing in dire situations like Georgina's family finds themselves in.

A credibility-straining wise old homeless man named Mookie shows up as a kind of deus ex machina Yoda/Mr. Miagi sage to help nudge things toward a satisfying conclusion but he's such a breath of fresh air that he's a welcoming presence.  He gets all the best lines: "Never drop your gun to hug a grizzly bear, I always say."  "I had me a dog when I was a boy.  Uglier than homemade soap, that dog was."  You'll like Mookie.

This is part of next year's Reader's Rally book competition in our county so now I gotta run off and make up some practice questions while it's still fresh in my mind.