Monday, October 8, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: How to Steal A Dog

How To Steal A Dog by Barbara O' Connor (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007)

Here comes Book Two in my dastardly plot to read all of this year's Oregon Battle of the Books Grades 3-5 titles with my 4th grade "reader reluctibus." (There are 16 titles in all, so we have our work cut out for us.)
I was fortunate enough to win a copy from Barbara Watson, a wonderful writer as well as a Marvelous Middle Grade Monday participant extraordinaire.
Description (from 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.

Opening 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."

Son's Verdict: Georgina and Toby were great characters. They were kind of the bad guys because they were stealing the dog, but they had this likeableness also. It was definitely a happy ending, but most books are. I think the mother liked Toby more than Georgina, because she was always shouting at Georgina.

Dad's Verdict: Yes, the characters were great. Georgina's story arc was well-done, and we really understood her choices and their consequences. (I think it's fascinating that my son was so keyed in to how parents react to their kids--plus the fact he says I'm always shouting at him. Perhaps he's hinting at something!) Georgina's voice and worldview were completely believable for a preteen. The depiction of homelessness was also something I appreciated, and it's not something you often see in a middle grade novel. With a pitch-perfect ear, O'Connor captured the shame and the tectonic shift in friendships and school I imagine would ensue from such a life-changing predicament. I particularly liked the ending, when Georgina makes her final choice regarding the dog. Finally, Willy the dog is as cute as all get out!
About the Author (again from Indiebound)
Barbara O’Connor is the author of numerous acclaimed books for children, including Fame and Glory in Freedom, GeorgiaMe and Rupert Goody; and Greetings from Nowhere. She has been awarded the Parents’ Choice Gold and Silver Awards, the Massachusetts Book Award, and the Dolly Gray Award, among many honors. As a child, she loved dogs, salamanders, tap dancing, school, and even homework. Her favorite days were when the bookmobile came to town. She was born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina, and now lives in Duxbury, Massachusetts, a historic seaside village not far from Plymouth Rock.

Barbara O' Connor's Website:



  1. Great review. Loved hearing your son's take on this as well as yours. Funny what your son says about you shouting. My daughter is telling me always to calm down, especially when I tell her to clean her room.

  2. I haven't read this one - thanks for the heads up!

  3. Your son's entry into the different levels of a person's character--so great!

    The opening line of this book really sums up the story line without giving away the ending. All in all, it's PERFECT.

    Glad you and your son were able to share this one together.

  4. There's been a lot of MMGM love for this book, going back more than a year! :)

    Glad to hear you loved it too, Michael. And your son, even with the shouting.

    Terrific opening line. Thanks for the reminder!

  5. Another good review for this book. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Oh that opening line tugged at my heart so bad I want to read the book like NOW.
    Thanks for the feature Michael. :)

  7. I've heard about this one a few times. I agree, homelessness is not something you often see in a middle grade novel - as a matter of fact, I can't think of another homeless protag in a middle grade book I have read.

    I love that you and your son are reading and reviewing books together. Good insights on his part. :-)


    1. Danika, there's a similar book called Also Known as Harper by Ann Haywood Leal. Here's a link to the indiebound description:

      Sorry, Michael. Just had to put my two cents in there!

  8. I enjoyed this one a lot. It's one of those books that makes writing MG look easy -- those are always the good ones. :)

  9. Great review! So glad you guys enjoyed this one! I read it and found the characters very likeable and the storyline was interesting.


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