Saturday, June 13, 2009

Listen! by Stephanie S. Tolan

Main character: 12-year-old Charley (that's short for Charlene)
Location: rural North Carolina
Time period: Contemporary
Genre: J Fiction, Dog stories

This is a loving and gentle book about a broken girl and a lost dog, and how they save each other over a summer.

Charley is recovering from a car accident in which she broke her leg. More than that, she is still recovering from her mother's death a few years ago. Charley has a tendency to avoid her pain--when her best friend Amy announced she was going away to a tennis camp for the summer, Charley deleted all of the pictures of the two of them off of her computer. When her mother, a famous nature photographer, was killed in a plane crash in Brazil, Charley took down all of her mother's photographs that were hanging in her room. Since then, she has avoided her mother's office and her mother's favorite places in the woods around the lake where they live.

So now Charley is facing a lonely summer with little to do beyond taking long walks to strengthen her leg. As she walks around the lake, she notices a feral dog who seems to appear and disappear like a ghost. Talking to some of her neighbors, she learns that the dog has been around for almost a year and has survived a cold winter on its own. Charley takes it into her head that she needs to help this dog--to try to tame it and give it food and shelter. She shows a great deal of patience in this exercise, for the dog is very skittish and shy of people. Slowly she gets the dog, whom she names Coyote, to trust her and to eat the food she puts out, but she doubts that she'll ever get the dog to accept a collar and leash and submit to a trip to the vet--two conditions her father places on her project.

As she heals Coyote's skittishness and fear of people, he begins to heal her. Walking in the woods exercises and strengthens her leg, and visiting some of the quiet places she has avoided since her mother's death finally allows her to face her loss and grieve. Have a box of kleenex handy--this scene brought tears to my eyes.