"Fourteen-year-old Finn is a loner, living with his dad and his amazing dog, Dylan. This summer Finn is hoping for a job where he doesn't have to talk to anyone except his buddy, Matthew. Then he meets Johanna, who's living next door. She's a graduate student in her twenties, cool and funny, and she treats Finn as an equal. Dylan thinks she's great too. Johanna's dealing with breast cancer, and Matthew and Finn help take care of her-and come to care for her. When she hires Finn to create a garden, his efforts backfire comically. But Johanna, and working in the garden, help Finn discover his hidden talent for connecting with people."
Gary Paulsen is an awesome adventure writer, but I really think he shines in the pages of this heartfelt and beautifully written middle grade novel. Though the subject matter is anything but funny, (breast cancer, loneliness, etc), Finn and his friends are hilarious, jubilent at times, and wonderfully real. I felt a connection with Johanna and her zest for life after having receiving scary and tragic news, and I loved how Finn handled himself and his newfound friendship with this older woman. Finn was totally insecure in the way that 14 year olds are, leaving him as realistic as possible.
The inclusion of Dylan the dog was fantastic and the task of the garden creation was both metaphorical and just plain funny! You'll be inspired by this book, laugh as you read it, cry in parts, and just want to read more when the last page is turned. Typically I comment that books written for middle graders and young adults are often too long, adding unnecessary fluff to the pages. Notes from the Dog is a short 132 pages and I would have loved for it to have gone on a bit longer.
Boys and girls alike can gain something from reading this lovely book, as well as all of us book-loving adults. Hand this kids loving a well-written, heartwarming story.
Notes from the Dog
Wendy Lamb Books
Review copy received from publisher
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