Notes From the Dog by Gary Paulson

December 7, 2011
Notes From the Dog by Gary Paulson, is a teen novel about an independent 15 year old boy named Finn. Finn's goal in his summer vacation is to talk to as few people as possible, meaning his dad, his friend Matthew, his grandpa, and his dog named Dylan. He doesn't hate people; he just can't understand them very well. He plans to pass the time by reading a lot, but things change when a girl named Johanna manages to get Finn to come out of his shell a bit. Johanna is a 25 year old girl house-sitting for the neighbors next door. Johanna is pretty, talkative, and very nice. She is pretty much a typical girl, except for she is battling breast cancer. Johanna is a trooper through her cancer, and she always manages to keep a smile on her face.

Johanna also has one wish, to plant a garden in Finns backyard (and to survive her cancer!). Johanna opens Finn's eyes a bit and manages to make him braver, more talkative, and his him learn to grow a garden. Johanna even sets Finn up on a date!

While building a garden, Finn and Matthew have set a goal to make enough money to sponsor Johanna in the breast cancer triathlon she wants to compete in before the summer is over. The two boys are skeptical of Johanna competing, since she has days where she can barely get out of bed. The boys slowly manage to build the garden and raise enough money, all while receiving inspirational "notes" from Dylan the dog. On the day of Johanna's triathlon, Johanna is very ill and the boys compete in place of her. The book ends with a scene where everyone goes swimming at the local lake after a party the boys throw to celebrate their new garden, and the triathlon.

Out of five stars, I would give this book a four. I give it a four because I think it was a good length. I also liked how Johanna was a relatable character, not just a character that no one can even try and relate to. I also liked how Johanna was a strong, nice character, and she wasn't boring so I didn't just put the book down and stop reading. The book also has story lines between some of the other characters, Finn likes a girl, his dad has a girlfriend and he wants to marry her, and Dylan writes the notes. This keeps the readers attention in the book.

I would recommend the book to the older youth, pre-teens, and teenagers. I think it's best for older kids since the book has some reference to beer, cancer, and I think a lot of littler kids wouldn't understand what was going on with Johanna.





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