cover image The Friskative Dog

The Friskative Dog

Susan Straight, . . Knopf, $15.99 (149pp) ISBN 978-0-375-83777-7

In this unusually told story, nine-year-old Sharron lives with her mother, Karen, and clings to her stuffed dog as though he were real, in the wake of her father's disappearance a year ago. About halfway through the novel, which unfolds mostly from Sharron's limited perspective, the girl overhears her grandmother telling her mother that her father has begun a new life with another woman. Karen seems to accept the situation better than Sharron, who likens her father to a wandering coyote and, even more oddly, ruminates on the relationship between dog tags and human identity changes. The true drama takes place in Sharron's school, where two spoiled girls begin bullying Sharron and stealing her dog. The often jarring narrative slips in tense, time and point of view. Although the tale centers on an elementary student, the book's complex structure and some haiku-like metaphors may well challenge even adult readers' imaginations: "The fog hung over the pool, making diamonds on the black iron railings, swirling around the carports." Things work out well enough in the end; Sharron and her mother carry on with their lives. However, it's difficult to pinpoint who might be the appropriate audience for Straight's (I Been in Sorrow's Kitchen and Licked Out All the Pots ) curious novel. Ages 8-12. (Mar.)