cover image Notes from the Dog

Notes from the Dog

Gary Paulsen, . . Random/Lamb, $15.99 (133pp) ISBN 978-0-385-73845-3

Paulsen (Mudshark ) writes another touching story about human kindness and humanity. Reclusive and insecure, Finn lives with his father, his dog and his friend Matthew, whose parents are divorcing. Being 14 isn't easy for Finn (“I feel like an alien dropped onto a strange planet and that I always have to be on the lookout for clues and cues on how to act and what to say,” he muses), and his plan for summer is to talk to “fewer than a dozen people” and read as many books as possible. However, his intentions are thwarted when 24-year-old Johanna shows up to house-sit for his neighbors. She is lighthearted, imaginative, optimistic and has breast cancer. While Finn is usually overwhelmed by human contact, Johanna's sensitivity is disarming, and she hires him to plant a garden for her as a distraction from her illness. The plot is straightforward, but Paulsen's thoughtful characters are compelling and their interactions realistic. This emotional, coming-of-age journey about taking responsibility for one's own happiness and making personal connections will not disappoint. Ages 12–up. (July)