cover image Eliza's Dog

Eliza's Dog

Betsy Hearne. Margaret K. McElderry Books, $16 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-689-80704-6

Summering with her parents in Ireland, nine-year-old Eliza gets what she has wanted for a very long time: a dog of her own. She spends the rest of the vacation worrying-unnecessarily, as it turns out-that the sheepdog, Panda, will outgrow her travel crate before the family boards the plane home to Illinois. Readers get a manageable dose of the nitty-gritty details of Panda's training, a process which, though more taxing than she'd expected, doesn't faze Eliza (who defensively tells her skeptical mother, ""Well, I like Panda even if she does pee and poop and throw up""). Curiously, given the pooch's star billing, the novel fails to give the reader a real handle on Panda's personality. Eliza's, however, shines through radiantly, as Hearne shapes a convincing portrait of a feisty, resourceful girl who learns several monumental lessons in a short time, among them the responsibilities that go along with dog ownership and the importance of compromise in her relationships with her parents, sister and best friend. It's an amiable offering, and younger dog lovers may lap up the canine-related particulars, but it's hardly among Hearne's (Eli's Ghost; South Star) more disctinctive novels. Ages 8-12. (Apr.)