A middle grade novel I loved

Harry Potter aside, it can sometimes be tough for grownups to find middle grade novels to devour. Typically, the books are meant for, say, fourth graders, and there aren’t love triangles, sparkly vampires, or even grim dystopian worlds that add that extra dash of grownup appeal.

This is why A Dog’s Way Home by Bobbie Pyron took me by surprise. I knew I'd like it. But love it? Oh, yes.

Disclosure: I’m a dog person, and the Shetland sheepdog on the cover definitely caught my eye. The writing and the storysort of a throwback to the days of Old Yeller and The Incredible
kept me absolutely riveted. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit to see this book win the Newbery.

A Dog’s Way Home tells the tale of 12-year-old Abby and Tam, her show dog. On the way home from a competition, they get in a wreck, and Tam’s cage flies into a ravine. The dog is hurt and lost, and Pyron gives us his and Abby’s stories in alternating points of view.

Both Tam and Abby are appealing, but Abby deserves special recognition for not being yet another sassy, world-weary 12-year-old. She’s the kind of kid adults can relate to—and will definitely enjoy reading about.

Things get incredibly grim for the dog, so this might not be a book you read to your soft-hearted first grader without some Kleenex nearby. Or, once they’ve gone to bed, read it all to yourself. The gorgeous writing is as satisfying as a box of chocolates but without all the calories, and it almost takes you back to that time in childhood when love and loyalty were pure and powerful enough to do anything.