Saturday, August 15, 2009

Review: Notes From the Dog

Summary: “Sometimes having company is not all it’s cracked up to be.” Fifteen-year-old Finn is a loner, living with his dad and his amazing dog, Dylan. This summer he’s hoping for a job where he doesn’t have to talk to anyone except his pal Matthew. Then Johanna moves in next door. She’s 10 years older, cool, funny, and she treats Finn as an equal. Dylan loves her, too. Johanna’s dealing with breast cancer, and Matthew and Finn learn to care for her, emotionally and physically. When she hires Finn to create a garden, his gardening ideas backfire comically. But Johanna and the garden help Finn discover his talents for connecting with people. -- Wendy Lamb Books

I read NOTES FROM THE DOG by Gary Paulsen over a month ago and for some reason I have put off writing my review. I'm not exactly sure why I've procrastinated for so long (it really isn't like me), but I am worried that I won't be able to express how much I appreciated this book. I also desperately wanted Booking Daughter to read it so I could get her input. I have a feeling that it's one of those middle grade books that ended up affecting me much more than it did her. I both laughed and cried as I read this story; and I didn't want the book to end.

One reason that I enjoyed this book so much was that I absolutely loved Finn, the 14 year-old narrator of this story. At the beginning of the book, he is a major introvert who is just trying to get through the summer with the least amount of interaction with people. My heart went out to him at times because of his insecurities, yet I also thought he was wise beyond his years at times. I thought the author did a wonderful job creating Finn's voice, and I loved the Finn's humor and insights into life. He was an extremely memorable character to me, and you couldn't help but root for him to come out of his shell.

Another character that I adored was Finn's neighbor Johanna. Johanna was a young woman who dealing with breast cancer. Not only did I find her battle with cancer to be inspiring (she had so much hope and strength), but I absolutely loved what she did for Finn. By getting Finn focused on creating a garden, she taught him so many wonderful life lessons. Without Johanna in his life, I'm not sure what would have become of Finn!

I don't know what rock I've been living under, but I've never read any books by Mr. Paulsen before. He is one of the most celebrated children's authors having won the Newberry Honor award three times. He is also winner of the 1997 Margaret A. Edwards Award which honors an author’s lifetime contribution to writing books for teenagers. After reading NOTES FROM THE DOG, I will definitely be checking out some more of his books.

NOTES FROM THE DOG was definitely a tear-jerker for me! I sat in my room one evening and just bawled. Don't get me wrong, this book was sad; but for some reason, I think my tears were actually tears of joy. This story definitely could have been a downer, but I think because Mr. Paulsen incorporate so much humor into the story that it became a story about life rather than death. I just found Finn's story to be so beautiful and heart-warming; and I was left with such a hopeful feeling after I finished this book. I highly recommend this novel not only to middle grade kids, but to anyone who loves a good story.

Booking Daughter's Thoughts:

My mom told me to read NOTES FROM THE DOG and once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down. I thought Finn as really funny like when he was working on the garden. I liked when Johanna set up a date between Finn and a girl he liked.

This book made me feel different emotions. While Finn was working on the garden, I was laughing. I was sad about Johanna's cancer and happy about how they worked together to raise money for the race.

I recommend that kids should read this book because the story is great and it has lots of wonderful lessons.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this very touching book!


ANovelMenagerie said...

This sounds like an amazing book!

bermudaonion said...

I don't think I've ever read any of Paulsen's work, but I know he was one of Vance's favorites way back when. This book sounds wonderful. Great review, ladies.

Beth Kephart said...

I teared up just reading your review, especially about the neighbor and what she must have done for Finn.

Amy said...

Did Gary Paulsen write Hatchet? That is a book that really stuck with me as a child.

Are you still reading the Ark book to booking Daughter? My niece apparently has already read it 3 times and saved her allowance to buy the second book. (is that not the sweetest thing ever?)

Beth F said...

I also haven't read Paulsen, but it sounds like something I would love. Booking Daughter's enthusiasm is contagious.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

If you wanted it to sound wonderful, your review certainly conveyed that!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

You should have seen how excited my 11 yr old son was when he saw NOTES FROM THE DOG on my desk ... he read it in one day, and raved about it (review is coming!). He pulled out LAWN BOY, another Paulsen favorite of his, to re-read the next day.

Thanks for reminding me that I need to get my son's help in reviewing this. I love your daughter's comment "my mom told me to read this; so I did!" :)