Notes From the Dog. Gary Paulsen. Wendy Lamb Books, c.2011. 144 pages.
Plot: Gary Paulsen’s Notes From the Dog chronicles the summer introverted Finn spends with his new neighbor Johanna. Finn, fourteen, lives with his graduate student father and confident best friend Matthew. Though he intended to spend his summer buried in books, his dog Dylan by his side, plans change when he meets Johanna. A cancer patient, Johanna enlists Finn’s help in creating a garden and raising money for the cancer-awareness triathlon she plans on participating in. Helping Finn cultivate a garden, Johanna also succeeds in helping him connect with people.
Review/personal thoughts: I loved this book! I completely identified with Finn’s reclusive, bookworm ways and, had I read Notes From the Dog as a tween, I know it would have made a lasting impression. Paulsen’s characters were realistic and relatable and his writing often humorous. For example, Finn’s plan to interact with only twelve people (specifically twelve) throughout the entire summer made me laugh out loud. Though often quite funny, Finn’s story was an emotional one. The book’s conclusion made me cry, though my tears were bittersweet; sad for the loss of Johanna and happy for the positive affect she’d had on Finn’s life.
Genre: contemporary realistic
Reading level/interest level: ages 11 & up