Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Notes from the Dog

Written Gary Paulsen
Most enjoyed by 5th through 8th graders

Finn is not what you'd call a popular guy. In fact, he's not exactly even the most social guy and he knows it. People make Finn uncomfortable so he's looking forward to a summer of avoiding them. His books, his dog Dylan, and his closest friend Matthew will make the summer just fine. But that's before he meets Johanna, the woman next door. She's been his new neighbor for a few weeks, caring for the house of vacationing professors. She's friendly, thin as a rail, bald, and battling cancer. When she asks Finn to help her plant a garden in his yard, his summer plans to only talk to 12 people are quickly derailed. As Finn and Matthew's friendship with Johanna grows, they watch her battle the effects of chemotherapy and learn of her goal to raise $10,000 for cancel research. When Johanna becomes too ill to compete in the cancer survivor's triathlon, Finn and Matthew agree to fill in for her and raise the money so her goal can be met. Of course, to do this, Finn will have to talk to a few more than 12 people. Will he be able to survive this summer?

Gary Paulsen is known to most of our students as the author of gripping survival stories and 'Notes from the Dog' can definitely be considered a survival story. This time, tho, the adversary is cancer and it's devastating effects not only on it's victims but those who love them. It's also a story of hope and change, as Finn and Matthew take on roles and responsibilities they normally would have avoided. While the story can have it's sad moments, Mr. Paulsen injects enough humor to keep it light and uplifting. The ending is somewhat open and I'll be curious to find out how readers interpret the conclusion. Don't miss the opportunity to read another great book by a master storyteller.

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