Sunday, November 25, 2012

Middle Grade Monday--Bauer Dogs

Those of us in the middle grade fiction division of the Cybils have noticed that there seems to be a huge resurgence in DOG books. Luckily, there are more and more students asking for them, so it's a good thing. Perhaps it has something to do with the economy-- dogs make kids feel better when times are tough.

Just a Dog
Bauer, Michael Gerard. Just a Dog.
1 December 2012
Also Reviewed at Young Adult Books Central

This is a tremendously sad dog book. Corey is glad to have Mr. Mosely, a Great Dane/Dalmatian mix, in his life, especially since times are tough for his family. Mr. Mosely if often comic relief-- like when he savages a Pink Panther stuffed animal he thinks is menacing Corey's younger sister-- but more often is a source of anxiety. He manages to go missing and get a fishhook stuck in his mouth, get hit by a car, and eventually get cancer. Yes, by the end of the book, Mr. Mosely dies. Still, he is an integral part of Corey's life, and helps him make it through tough times like his father losing his job and family fights.
Strengths: This is a rather suspenseful book; every chapter ends with the promise of something terrible happening.
Weaknesses: This had too many sad and too few happy moments for a short book aimed at lower middle grade students. This is an Australian author, and it occasionally shows in the text.

Bauer, Joan. Almost Home.
13 September 2012
Also Reviewed at Young Adult Books Central
Nominated for the Cybils by Sarah Potvin

Sugar's mother is struggling to find work and is in danger of losing their home after the death of her father. The one bright spot in Sugar's day is her language arts teacher, Mr. B., who encourages her to write poetry for assignments and tries to keep tabs on her well being. Another bright spot is Shush, a small dog another girl thrusts at Sugar in the park right before Sugar and her mother lose their home. Sugar's mother, Reba, is unable to cope. Her only hope is getting in touch with Sugar's father, a gambler who has not been reliable in the past. It is Sugar who contacts a support agency for a place to live. She manages to get Shush accepted because she is always polite and has a habit of writing thank you notes for everything. When Reba thinks she can get a job in Chicago, she takes Sugar there, but the job falls through and Reba falls apart. Sugar goes into foster care and manages to hold on to Shush and try to get her mother to stop relying on her father so that the two of them can move on.
Strengths: Fantastic cover. Look carefully at the run in the sleeve of the sweater. And cute dogs make everything better. I love Bauer's work and will definitely buy this. The supportive teacher is a bonus.
Weaknesses: I could have done without Sugar's poetry. It's enough to know that she writes it without reading examples, which slow the story down.

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe andWhat Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts. Both sites have lots of links to reviews about books that are great for the 4th through 8th grader. It's alsoNonfiction Monday, hosted this week at The Miss Rumphius Effect.


  1. Those covers are both seriously adorable.

  2. two Bauers, two dog books, both in the same year.... something is in the air.

  3. Joan Bauer just gets middle school kids - and this one sounds like another winner. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Both covers are cute! Just a Dog sounds like a book that is very powerful. I like that each chapter ends with some suspense. :)

  5. I agree that the book covers are gorgeous. Interesting take as well about the possible connection between the economy and the resurgence of 'book dogs' in the market - worth pondering about. :)