Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Me & Jack - Danette Haworth

 When it comes to the precarious place between childhood and adolescence, the carefree innocence of summer vacation, and the confusion of growing up, Danette Haworth has a lock on the market.  This has been proven by her utterly charming "Violet Raines Almost Got Struck By Lightning", followed up by "The Summer of Moonlight Secrets".   Reading her novels is like closing your eyes and remembering what it was like you were 12. 

I was beyond excited when I heard that she was finished with her third book, "Me & Jack".  I knew this particular book was a labor of love, because it drew from her experience of living in a military family.  I also knew she'd been working on it for some time.  I prepared myself for greatness, and I wasn't disappointed.

Synopsis:  Josh's life has never been what you would call easy.  He lost his mother when he was in fourth grade, and is required to move often because his dad is a recruiter for the Air Force.  With each new town he must make new friends, and prove himself all over again.  And lately there has been added pressure.  Because the Vietnam war is so unpopular amongst most Americans, he and his father are not always welcomed by their community.

When they find their next home in a small town in Pennsylvania, Josh adopts a new dog, Jack, who is immediately blamed for a rash of dead animals and spilled garbage cans.  Josh must defend his dog against townspeople who want him gone, and prove there is something more sinister roaming the town at night.  Adding to Josh's angst in transitioning to his new home, he is instantly at odds with the town's mean rich kid, and the war begins to take its toll on the young men who have left this small town and will never come back.  Life couldn't be more complicated, but anything is possible when you have a dog like Jack by your side.

My thoughts:  Total reading pleasure.  Danette's stories are filled with childlike delight, adventure, heartbreak and a little bit of growing up.  These books are perfect for the middle grade reader - they are clean and filled with positive messages (in a literary world full of bad ones).  But you'll want to read it as well, escape for a few hours back to a time that was a little easier, and remember what it is like to be a kid again.

Danette always manages to throw in a little something special to make her books stand out above the rest.  In "Me & Jack", you learn about the effects of the Vietnam war from the street level, through the eyes of a 12 year-old boy. You also learn a little bit about the rare Pharaoh hound, Jack's breed.  It's all about the details, you know?

Tiny complaint?  That the ending was wrapped up pretty tidily (Walt Disney-ish tidily) but I believe middle readers want this kind of ending.  We really need to wait until they are teens before we start killing off the protagonists or leave open endings!  (Plus, I never would have forgiven Danette if she would have killed off the dog!)

4.5 out of 5 stars      


Kimberly said...

Agreed...you can't kill the dog! Familiar tones with my own military childhood - I love this book! Nice review, Sandy!

Darlene said...

I've never heard of this book but it sounds good.

I'm a little confused. My google reader is wonky. Monday is before Tuesday and there's a post saying you've already left for Poland yet you're not leaving till June. I was already confused enough before this. lol.