Gone to the Dogs
Two middle-grade readers for kids who know that dogs are loyal to the end. 

A Handful of Stars, by Cynthia Lord; Scholastic Press, $16.99, 184 pages, ages 10-13.

Every summer, migrant families travel from as far as Mexico to harvest blueberries in a remote part of Downeast Maine, and local residents generally don’t interact with them. That is, until one afternoon, when Lily’s blind retriever Lucky runs away and into the blueberry fields. Salma Santiago lures the dog back with her peanut butter sandwich, and from that moment on, Lily and Salma become friends. Salma wants to enter the Blueberry Queen pageant, but does she have the courage to do it? Newbery Honor Author Cynthia Lord (Rules) tackles such themes as prejudice, courage, and friendship with compassion and grace, and as a Maine resident herself, descriptions of this wild and wonderful area of New England are wonderfully accurate.

Finder, Coal Mine Dog, by Alison Hart, illustrated by Michael G. Montgomery; Peachtree Publishers, $12.95, 181 pages, ages 7-10.

In 1909, 259 coal miners died in a tunnel fire in Cherry, Illinois, becoming the third most deadly mine disaster in U.S. history. In this fictionalized thriller, readers meet Finder, a dog who pulls a cart in those dangerous mines. His young owner Thomas works too, trying to pay off his deceased parents’ debts. Soon enough, fire breaks out, and the unlikely duo find themselves in a race against time to save fellow miners. Told from the point of view of the dog, Alison Hart’s latest canine thriller in her Dog Chronicles series is action-packed, while also offering children a look at what life was like for children and their pets in America a century ago. Michael G. Montgomery’s pen and ink illustrations capture the fast pace of the tale. A map of the mine, notes about the actual fire, mining, child and animal labor bring this poignant moment in American history to life.

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