cover image Buzzard Breath

Buzzard Breath

Marty Crisp. Atheneum Books, $15 (140pp) ISBN 978-0-689-31964-8

Will Winkle, sixth grader and lover of all things canine, knows so much about dogs that he could ``practically write a book on the subject.'' Allowed to choose a dog of his own, he determines to find just the right pet. He puts his search on hold, however, to provide temporary shelter for an unattractive abandoned German shepherd, nicknamed Buzzard Breath by the class bully. Will realizes his true bond with Buzz only when he almost loses the dog for good-thought to have attacked a toddler, Buzzard is rescued from a death sentence after an overly dramatic sequence in which Will proves Buzz's innocence. A subplot involving an ungainly new classmate rounds out the book's message that appearances aren't everything. A device shifting the narrative to the dog's point of view is used inconsistently but, at its best, acts as a witty counterpoint to Will's dog obsession. Despite flaws, this is a promising debut, full of energy and ripe with thoughtful themes. Ages 8-12. (June)