Published in 2006, this book is a real charmer! It’s about a boy–Paolo–growing up in the 1950s in the San Joaquin Valley. He lives with a large, extended family and of particular note in this family are Paolo’s little brother Georgie, his cousin Billy, who is deaf, and their big love a of dog Rufus. Well, Rufus gets dognapped and hijinks ensue as the Paolo and Billy, with Georgie in tow, try to find him and get him back.
There are three things I really love about this book.
- The writing is great! Smith has a gift for metaphors and he is the best at choosing the absolute right verb. In fact, if you are a writer, you will read this and think: Wow. I have to think more carefully about my verbs.
- It has a big, galumphing wonderful dog, who (spoiler) survives being kidnapping and actually does not seem much the worse for wear by it.
- Billy! You know I am always searching for middle grade novels with disabled characters. And it always so important to me that those characters have agency over their lives. I want to see that disability affects a character’s experience and sometimes their world view, but that it doesn’t own them. They are nobody’s pity party. Billy is spectacular. A hidden poet, he is the smartest kid in the bunch and his keen observations mean that, of course, he figures out the mystery of Rufus’s dognapping way before anyone else.
This is definitely a fun read. Your kids/students will love it. I did.