Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Recommended Age: 10+

The Newbery Medal winner of 1992, which I believe has been made into a film, is worth reading whether you have seen the movie or not.

Shiloh is the name Marty gives to a sweet but badly mistreated beagle, who belongs to a really nasty neighbor; and when a terrified Shiloh runs away from his master, Marty risks defying his parents’ ideas of right and wrong to protect the animal he loves. At first he tries hiding the dog, both from his parents and from the nasty Judd Travers. Then, as his secret slowly but inevitably breaks open, he puts everything on the line to hold onto Shiloh and keep Travers from getting him back.

There’s a lot to be said for this story. Its hero struggles with an ethical dilemma and, later, with a hairy conundrum that will have you in suspense almost to the last page. What’s right in this situation? It’s a puzzle that even has his parents stumped, at one point. And what can a boy, whose family is barely scraping by, do about it? Then there’s also the “you’d be surprised where you find good in some people” issue, and under everything else, the “cruelty to animals issue.”

Inspired by the author’s real-life experience, this is a beautiful and simple story about a boy growing up in West Virginia, his love for a dog, and how he faces the forces working against him. If you like this story, you could look for more of the over 60 books written by Ms. Naylor, including such titles as Beetles, Lightly Toasted and The Boy with the Helium Head. She has also written a Witch trilogy and a series of what appear to be gothic mysteries for kids (look for the word “Bessledorf” in the titles).

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