cover image The Promise

The Promise

Jackie Koller, Conrad. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $15.95 (80pp) ISBN 978-0-679-89484-1

Since Ma died, Matt and his little brother and their Pa have tried to make the best of things, but Christmastime is especially difficult. Suddenly things look bleak indeed: when Matt puts out a holiday treat for the birds, a bear chases him deep into the woods and mauls Sara, his Labrador retriever. Will they lose her now too? For the most part this novel shines with simplicity and grace, but the account of the Christmas Eve miracle that saves the day (the dog telling Matt how to get help and promising not to die in the meantime) may be hard for some readers to swallow. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8-12. (Oct.)