cover image Underdog City

Underdog City

Chris Negron. HarperCollins, $19.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-06-325187-8

Nothing in 12-year-old white-cued Mortimer Bray’s beloved home of Townsend Heights has felt the same since elderly Mrs. Opal—the community council president and Mortimer’s good friend—moved away and passed the title on to Mortimer’s mother. Even worse, though, was the death of his pup following an incident while on their regular walk. Now, Mortimer is too anxious to continue with the dog-walking business he founded with his best friend, and he hasn’t spoken to Mrs. Opal in a long time. A Puerto Rican family moving into the house next door with their pet rooster, who crows loudly every morning at 5 a.m., further upends life in Townsend, as does the knowledge that the history behind a nearby vacant lot is spreading apprehension throughout the community. Things begin looking up for Mortimer when he persuades Will, the visiting granddaughter of his new neighbors, to help him investigate the property, but overheard, racially charged conversations about her family sow tension around town. Mortimer’s anxiety is powerfully portrayed and realistically permeates every aspect of his life. Kind community members, both human and dog, help him manage his constantly racing thoughts and support him during his grieving process in this discerning celebration of connection and healing. Ages 8–12. (Oct.)