Monday, June 27, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday -- How to Steal a Dog

How To Steal A Dog by Barbara O'Connor (paperback April 2009, Square Fish, for ages 9 to 12)

Source: paperback purchased from the bookstore where I work!

Synopsis (from the publisher):  Georgina Hayes is desperate. Ever since her father left and they were evicted from their apartment, her family has been living in their car. With her mama juggling two jobs and trying to make enough money to find a place to live, Georgina is stuck looking after her younger brother, Toby. And she has her heart set on improving their situation. When Georgina spots a missing-dog poster with a reward of five hundred dollars, the solution to all her problems suddenly seems within reach. All she has to do is “borrow” the right dog and its owners are sure to offer a reward. What happens next is the last thing she expected.

Why I loved it:   It's funny and sad at the same time.  Barbara O'Connor had me from the first line: "The day I decided to steal a dog was the same day my best friend, Luanne Godfrey, found out I lived in a car."  This book would be an excellent discussion starter for you and your kids to talk about the ever-present problem of homelessness in our society, and what could be done about it.  There's also the moral dilemma Georgina struggles with.  She knows it's wrong to steal a dog, but she's tempted to take Willy because of the possible reward his owner, Carmella, might offer.  Do desperate situations ever justify desperate actions?  Rest assured that Georgina is not a bad kid and keep in mind that this is a middle-grade novel.  So even if Georgina gets in trouble, she'll find a way to fix things.

The voice is perfect. Georgina really sounds like an ten-year-old girl from Darby, North Carolina, who struggles with the embarrassment of being homeless, trying to wash her hair in a gas station restroom, doing homework by flashlight, eating out of a cooler.  She's sick of it and she lets us know. The writing is lovely, filled with specific details that bring Georgina's world to life, and dialogue that's spot-on. 

The end is guaranteed to melt your heart.

I've sold dozens of copies of this book in the bookstore. I've only had a couple of potential customers balk at it because of the title.  But trust me, this is NOT a story about a kid who steals.  This is a timely story about homelessness and family and love and doing what's right.

Other middle grade books about homelessness that I've read:  Also Known as Harper by Ann Haywood Leal, and The King of Dragons by Carol Fenner.  Have you read any other middle grade books about homelessness?  Feel free to share them in the comments.

MMGM is the brainchild of Shannon Whitney Messenger.

Other regulars:
Shannon O'Donnell at Book Dreaming
Myrna Foster at The Night Writer
Sherrie Petersen at Write About Now
Natalie Aguirre at Literary Rambles
Brooke Favero at Somewhere in the Middle
Deb Marshall at Just Deb
Ally Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy
Barbara Watson at Novel and Nouveau
Anita Laydon Miller at her middle grade blog
Michael G-G at Middle Grade Mafioso
Jessica Lei at her blog 
Pam Torres at So I'm Fifty


  1. This sounds like a great book. And so timely because sadly there are kids out there that can relate to this. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. Love your reviews! Although I don't typically read MG books, this is one that I'd pick up. And, I agree with Natalie about how kids would be able to relate to this.

  3. Cooley's Shelter, Harris' Come the Morning (1989 but really good), Rhuday-Perkovich 8th Grade Super Zero (main character volunteers in a homeless shelter), Moses' Joseph, Strasser's Can't Get There From Here, Van Draanen's Runaway-- that's all I can think of right now.

  4. I've seen this one at the library but never picked it up (the title turned me off), but you describe it as something precious. Thank you for sharing!

  5. I was just watching a news piece on homeless children last night. What a timely topic for this book - although I know it's been out for a bit. I need to sit down and read this one!

  6. This one looks good, Joanne. Thanks for the review!

  7. Oh, I'm bawling just from the synopsis!

  8. Natalie, that is so true. It is sad.

    Kelly, thanks! And thanks for stopping by my blog.

    Ms Yingling, thanks for the other titles. I've read 8th Grade Super Zero (and loved it), so I don't know why I didn't think of that.

    Ah, Barbara, yes, I've had customers who didn't like the title. They thought it would encourage kids to steal. But believe me, it doesn't.

    Hi Jill, and gosh, yes, it certainly is still timely. It's also a quick read, so it won't take you long.

    Thanks, Myrna!

    Hi Corey! Oh, it's adorable, believe me.

  9. This book sounds so great! I hadn't heard of it before so thank you for sharing the review!

  10. Thanks for stopping by my blog, Lydia!


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