Waiting for the Magic by Patricia MacLachlan
illustrated by Amy June Bates
It's been awhile since I've had a Paisley's pick...and this book was an unexpected delight. It seems rare these days for me to pick up a book I haven't heard anything about, and this one was totally off my radar until it happened across my desk.
It's the summer before fifth grade when William's father goes away.
"He is a teacher of literature at the college, so he could have said words when he left. He didn't. And this time he didn't slam the door. He shut it with a small, soft sound that made me jump." (p.1)After he leaves, William's mother takes him and his four-year-old sister, Elinor, to the pound to adopt a dog. They leave with four dogs and a cat. Elinor is the first to realize the animals can talk. Now, that could easily take the story in a hokey direction, but it works. And one of the reasons is because the dogs' voices are spot on - they're short and to the point, and sound exactly like a dog would sound.
On page 76, when William's father is back, he is reading about dogs and says one of the things he learned is that chocolate is bad for dogs. One of the dogs, Neo, says, "I had a tiny taste of chocolate once. I took it off a table. And I didn't get sick." And another dog, Bryn, says, "I used to find M&M's in the cushions of the couch when I was fast enough." This is real! These are things my dog would say if she could talk!
The other things I really appreciate about this book is that when the father comes back, and it's not an easy adjustment. We see him work to fit back into the family, and we see William struggle his return. Kids know that sorry isn't always enough, and that it doesn't always automatically make things better, and we see the gradual changes and acceptance. It does end happily, and with everyone in the family able to hear the animals talk.
Amy June Bates has created delightful illustrations to accompany the story, and they're sprinkled throughout the book.
For grades 3-5, probably the younger end
Reviewed from library copy