Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hound Dog True

Hound Dog True by Linda Urban. Grades 3-6. Harcourt Children's Books, September 2011. 149 pages. Review copy provided by my local library.

Mattie's getting ready to start the fifth grade at a new school. Another new school, another year of trying unsuccessfully to make new friends, another year of being too shy to talk to anyone (especially after what happened last year)... Unless she can convince her custodian uncle to take her on as an apprentice. Then she can spend recess and lunch (all those "lawless times") helping him instead of floating around trying to find a place where she fits in. But things don't turn out exactly as Mattie had planned...

Here's what I loved about this book:

1. Mattie is a character that many kids will be able to identify with. She's not the funny kid. She's not the kid who's getting in trouble all the time. She's the shy kid. She's the quiet kid, the worrier, the kid who doesn't even know how to name what's worrying her. We needed Mattie.

2. A bullying incident that might not even count as a bullying incident, but that shows that bullying can come in many different forms and affect kids greatly. In the fourth grade, Star violated Mattie's privacy by peeking in her story notebook, and what could have blossomed into a kindred friendship, instead turned into incessant mocking. After that, Mattie stopped writing stories.

3. Uncle Potluck! Mattie's eloquent, compassionate uncle is the Director of Custodial Arts at her new school and Mattie's one hope for salvation. I love this character because he's so much more than just "Mattie's janitor uncle". He's smart and feisty and takes an interest in Mattie.

4. The poetic writing. Ms. Urban definitely knows her way around showing instead of telling and she's quick with a poetric turn of phrase (especially from Uncle Potluck). I wrote down one from the beginning of the book where Mattie is describing her new home at night:

It was dark out here without streetlights and golden arches and headlights graying up the sky. (first page)

I love how this simple sentence evokes such a picture of where Mattie is (and where she isn't).

As much as anything else, this is a book about scratching the surface, about knowing that there is so much more to people than just what you can see. It's a quiet sort of story, different in tone from Linda Urban's first book A Crooked Kind of Perfect, but for the right audience it's going to be the perfect book. This is a book that will speak to those kids who are shy about letting their hound dog truths show.

Read more reviews at A Fuse #8 Production and Jen Robinson's Book Page.

Hound Dog True is on shelves now!