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Contributor(s): MacLachlan, Patricia, Bates, Amy June (Illustrator)

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ISBN: 1416927468     ISBN-13: 9781416927464
Publisher: Atheneum
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Binding Type: Paperback - See All Available Formats & Editions
Published: September 2012

Annotation: When his mother responds to his father's departure by adopting four dogs and a cat, William and his sister, Elinor, experience unexpected renewal while adapting to their changed family. By the Newbery Medal-winning author of Sarah, Plain and Tall.
Additional Information
Library of Congress Subjects:
Separation (Psychology); Fiction.
Family life; Fiction.
Dogs; Fiction.
BISAC Categories:
- Juvenile Fiction | Animals | Pets
- Juvenile Fiction | Family | Marriage & Divorce
- Juvenile Fiction | Fantasy & Magic
Dewey: [Fic]
LCCN: bl2012032624
Academic/Grade Level: Grade 3-4, Age 8-9
Book type: Juvenile Fiction
Physical Information: 7.50" H x 5.25" W x 0.75" (0.28 lbs) 143 pages
Accelerated Reader Info
Quiz #: 145511
Reading Level: 3.0   Interest Level: Middle Grades   Point Value: 2.0
Scholastic Reading Counts Info
Quiz #: Q53883
Reading Level: 3.4   Interest Level: Grades 3-5   Point Value: 5.0
Descriptions, Reviews, Etc.

Reviewed by Horn Book Guide Reviews (Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Spring)
William's father leaves; his mother is about to have a baby; and his little sister Elinor is talking with the family's new pets--four dogs and a cat. Soon William starts hearing the animals, too, and when his father returns, the pets help keep the family together. Emotions ring true in this poignant story about family dynamics.

Reviewed by Publishers Weekly Reviews (PW Reviews 2011 July #1)

Newbery Medalist MacLachlan tackles the familiar yet always heart-wrenching subject of parental separation in her venerable spare and moving style. "It was early on a Saturday summer morning when my mother and father stopped arguing and Papa walked away," begins William, a fourth-grader who is quietly shaken and angry at his father's departure. He is astounded when his mother, engulfed by emotion, immediately drives him and his four-year-old sister, Elinor, to the pound, where they bring home all four dogs they find, plus a cat. The characters are individualistic, believable, and likable, and the impulsive acquisition and heartwarming presence of the animals suggest an affecting work of realistic fiction. MacLachlan moves it into fantasy, however, by creating voices—wise ones—for each of the dogs, which Elinor can immediately hear; the others must open themselves to the possibility of magic before they come to hear the dogs, as well. While the talking animals initially feel like a contrivance, they bring an amusing and uplifting tenderness to this story of a family working to trust again—readers facing similar turmoil will wish they had such a source of support. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. (Sept.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC

Reviewed by School Library Journal Reviews (SLJ Reviews 2011 October)

Gr 3–5—Realism blends seamlessly with fantasy as a boy struggles to trust that his fractured family can become whole once more. When Papa walks out yet again, Mama decides they need a dog and takes fifth-grader William and his four-year-old sister, Elinor, to the animal shelter where they choose not one but four dogs: Bryn, Bitty, Neo, and Grace, and one cat, Lula. The animals fill some of the empty space left by Papa's absence, and first Elinor and then William realize they can hear the dogs talking to one another. But when Mama announces she's pregnant, Papa returns and tries to fit into the new dynamics of the household, taking over the cooking to hilarious effect and setting up a studio in the attic in hopes of overcoming his writer's block. Two loving grandparents, an eccentric friend, and four wise and devoted dogs that can now be heard by Papa, and then by Mama, too, help a now-solid family welcome baby Nicholas—and a new dog—at story's end. The spare prose, in William's authentic voice, conveys pathos and humor; the boy's cautious observations and Papa's earnest explanations are offset by Elinor's droll one-liners and the dogs' succinct comments. Deft characterization adds richness and depth to a deceptively simple narrative, and appealing charcoal pencil illustrations throughout reflect the action. The book's title suggests the wonder of canine speech and becomes the title of the story Papa eventually begins to write. Fans of Joy Cowley's Chicken Feathers (Philomel, 2008) will love this gem.—Marie Orlando, formerly at Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY

[Page 112]. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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