Monday, September 12, 2016


Claire's next door neighbors are not exactly upstanding members of the community.  The Stewarts have a junky yard and a reputation for violence, so when Claire sees the dog chained up in the yard, she begins to worry.

She can hear Wally's chain rattling from her bedroom.  She can hear him whimpering.  New Hampshire winters are so cold, and Wally is just left in the yard with no escape from the weather.  She wants to help him, but her fear of Elwood Stewart is greater than her compassion for the dog.

One day, she can't stand it anymore and goes over to ask if she can walk the dog.  The walk is a disaster, but it starts something.  Danny Stewart is a couple of years older than Claire, and when he sees her interest in the dog, he starts to change his attitude toward Wally.

With the help of a dog training book written by a priest, the two begin to train Wally together.  While the task seemed impossible at first, Wally soon impresses his friends with how quickly and easily he picks up the training.  Danny starts to change, too.  It's like all the love and affection he's missed in his life gets poured into the dog.  The more time they spend together, the more confused Claire is about their relationship.  Are the friends?  Boyfriend and girlfriend?  Does she even want that with Danny Stewart?

Joseph Monninger's new book is a beautiful exploration of the effects of love on those who have been abused and abandoned.  Monninger's language is philosophical and draws the reader into a greater contemplation that just what is happening in the story.  This is a great dog story up until the turning point where it becomes so much more.  This book left me in tears and stayed with me for days as I contemplated love and sacrifice.  Highly recommended for grades 8 and up.

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