cover image THE GREEN DOG: A Mostly True Story

THE GREEN DOG: A Mostly True Story

Suzanne Fisher Staples, . . FSG/Foster, $16 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-374-32779-8

In this tale based on the author's childhood memories, Staples (Shiva's Fire; Dangerous Skies) meandering narrative effectively evokes the long, lazy days of summer on a lake in northeastern Pennsylvania. Narrator Suzanne, an imaginative child, prefers the company of animals to most people ("I don't need Billy McClosky chattering on the dock and scaring the fish away, not to mention interrupting my exotic daydream adventures"). Anyone who has always wanted a dog will identify with Suzanne, whose dream comes true during the summer after her fourth-grade year. The dog, which Suzanne's father refuses to rescue from the highway, later appears in their yard, a good six miles away. Amazed by the coincidence (as readers may be, too), the narrator readily adopts the mutt—although her father never actually says "yes, you can keep him." Suzanne's dream-come-true becomes a bit nightmarish as her pet, dubbed "Jeff," repeatedly gets into mischief (uprooting a neighbor's rhubarb patch—which yields prize-winning pies—plus impregnating a valuable hunting dog and peeing in all the wrong places). Like Suzanne, readers will wait with baited breath to see which disaster will be the last straw, propelling her father to carry out his threat to "send Jeff to the farm." The author creates a timeless atmosphere by remaining focused on the narrator's growing pains and avoiding details that would date the tale. As the novel progresses, readers will detect subtle changes in Suzanne as Jeff draws her out of her loner's shell and forces her to deal with the here and now. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)