ISBN 978-0-525-42778-0 $16.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 3-5
After a dog saves his beloved cat, Mr. Thomas simply dubs the mutt Mutt and lets her stay on his farm as a guard dog. Ten-year-old Gilbert is the son of the migrant workers who work Mr. Thomas’ land, and the boy falls head over heels for Mutt; he’s especially thrilled when she has puppies and he gets to name each one—Chief, Alegre, Happy, and Luna. When harvest season ends, however, Gilbert must return to Florida, and Mr. Thomas gives the puppies away. Chief and Luna end up in a puppy mill, but they manage to escape and land in New York, where they both find work and love with caring owners (Chief becomes a police dog, while dancing Luna becomes an entertainer) and eventually reunite with Gilbert, whose family has opened up a restaurant in the city. The direct storytelling has an appealing cadence, and the simple sentences and vocabulary are well within the grasp of newly independent readers. The pace moves steadily and organically from Mutt’s story to that of the puppies, giving their journey a sense of completeness by book’s end; Gilbert’s family’s transition from migrants to entrepreneurs is also revealed in bits and pieces, reflecting the dogs’ experiences. The figures in Weber’s black and white illustrations are naïvely drafted rather than realistic, but their expressions, particularly in the puppies, suit the liveliness of the text. An author’s note cites her mother’s immigration during World War II as inspiration, so while fans of The Incredible Journey and its ilk are the obvious audience this could also be a gentle introduction to stories of immigration.