“Buddy” M.H. Herlong

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). To be published September 13, 2012. Viking (Penguin). 296 pp.

When I began reading “Buddy” a few hours ago, I couldn’t put it down. It held my interest from the beginning, as should good books about good dogs. I will admit that, being a book about a dog, it made me cry. That seems to be a prerequisite when reading a book where a dog is the main character, and I’m sure it will make you cry too.

Li’l T is about to be 13 years old, and has always wanted a dog. When his father accidentally runs over a mangy dog, Li’l T takes it as a sign the dog is to be his and names him Buddy. From that day on, he and Buddy are inseparable. The family is poor, but Li’l T becomes quite enterprising in the ways he earns money for Buddy’s food. He loves Buddy, and Buddy loves him.

A few months later, the family has to leave their home in New Orleans because Hurricane Katrina is coming. They expect to return from Mississippi in a couple of days so, since their car is too small, they leave Buddy home. When Li’l T finds out that New Orleans is flooded and Buddy is gone, his heart is broken. It seems nothing can ever be the same again for Li’l T. His grandpa has died of a broken heart, while his home, friends and dog are all gone.

However, New Orleanians are tough. Rebuilding their homes and communities also includes rebuilding what once seemed to be lost forever. When Li’l T learns Buddy is not lost, he is ecstatic but will need a lot of help to get him back. It will take a village to put everyone’s life back on track, including his own.

Li’l T and Buddy’s story will make even the most stoic reader shed tears, not only for their story but for all that was lost, and found, during the devastation of Katrina. Students, especially boys aged 9-13, will enjoy Buddy’s story.

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