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STAINED book cover

Sarah, a teen with a port-wine stain and body image issues, is abducted, and must find a way to rescue herself.

“Powerful. I raced through it, wanting to know if Sarah would find a way to escape both her captor and her self-doubts. A real nail-biter!“
- April Henry, NY Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die

SCARS book cover

Kendra must face her past and stop hurting herself--before it's too late.

Awards: #1 in the Top 10 ALA Quick Picks, ALA's Rainbow List, a Governor General Literary Award Finalist, Staff Pick for Teaching Tolerance.

Yes, it's my own arm on the cover of SCARS.

HUNTED book cover

Caitlyn, a telepath in a world where having any paranormal power at all can kill her, must decide between saving herself or saving the world.

Awards: A finalist for the Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy, and the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award.


Kate sees visions of the future--but only when she has an asthma attack. When she "sees" her sister being beaten, and a schoolmate killing herself, Kate must trigger more attacks--but that could kill her.

Awards: 2013 Gold Winner, Wise Bear Digital Awards, YA Paranormal category.

STAINED book cover

Sarah, a teen with a port-wine stain and body image issues, is abducted, and must find a way to rescue herself.

“Powerful. I raced through it, wanting to know if Sarah would find a way to escape both her captor and her self-doubts. A real nail-biter!“
- April Henry, NY Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die

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Great Middle Grade Books

Dog Lost


Dog Lost
by Ingrid Lee
The Chicken House/Scholastic,(September 2008)
ISBN-10: 0545085780
ISBN-13: 9780545085786

My rating:

"Here," a voice grunted. "Tried to cash in my chips and ended up with this for my trouble. Mind you don't let it chew up my shoes."
A wet lump landed on Mackenzie's bed. Seconds later the door slammed. The bedroom was black again.
Mackenzie curled away from the damp wigth that trembled on top of the blanket. He could feel hot air whistle past his ear. He could smell fear. And he could make out the splotches of white. When he found the courage to touch one of them, it crumpled in his hand like heavy silk.
It was an ear, a soft, silky ear.
Something began to whack against his leg. Mackenzie figured it out. A tail was beating against his leg. The prod in his tummy was a paw. And the cold, dry poke under his neck, well, that was a nose.
The thing on his bed was a dog. A dog! His father had thrown a dog on the bed.
In the dark, Mackenzie lay still, holding the ear slightly. Just as he was getting used to the soft way it folded in his fingers, the dog licked his chin, a slurpy ice-cream lick.
--Dog Lost by Ingrid Lee, p. 1-2.

Dog Lost is a warm, moving, uplifting, and inspiring book. It's what I would call a comfort book--a book I know I'll want to read again and again over the years, bringing a feeling of comfort like a warm blanket wrapped around you on a cold night, and, when you're finished it, a feeling of satisfaction and hunger eased. It's one of those reads that I want to pass on to everyone.

11-year-old Mackenzie lives with his abusive father--but his father does something wonderful when he brings Mackenzie home a pit bull puppy he won after gambling. Mackenzie and Cash quickly bond and provide comfort to each other--until Mackenzie's father takes Cash away in the trunk of his car and dumps her somewhere. Mackenzie and Cash both try to find each other, each going through their own trials. The situation gets more desperate when the city decides to outlaw all stray pit bulls and put them to sleep. Cash has a good and big heart, and this helps her be just where she needs to be.

Dog Lost has bits of pain, abuse, and trauma mixed into the story, but there is so much hope, so many kind acts, and so many people coming together in the end, that the good feeling is what a reader will take away with them. Also, even in some of the painful descriptions there is beauty in the writing, which may help the reader get some distance.

Lee starts off with Mackenzie's first meeting with his new dog, Cash, and the lovely way they get to know each other, finding comfort in each other. This relationship builds, and we see the love between them, and believe it. This bond helps offset Mackenzie's abusive father--until his father throws Cash away. Then we want Cash and Mackenzie to find each other again--and this desire, also woven into the text, propels the story forward at a fast pace as we race to see whether Mackenzie and Cash will have a happy ending.

Mackenzie and Cash are both likable characters. Cash only fights back to try to protect his boy, Mackenzie, and later works to protect others. Cash clearly has a big heart. Mackenzie does his best to try to protect Cash, and later to find Cash. Most of the characters are likable, even ones that don't play a huge roll.

Lee ingeniously pulls characters from all over and slowly draws them together through small acts of kindness (or, in a few cases, cruelty) towards key moments where many of them intersect. You can actually see the characters and events coming together, little clues and scenes pulling the characters forward, as if inevitably. It is so well crafted, and brings a sense of community, hope, and the feeling that the world is a good place. When Lee changes viewpoint and takes us to another character, she often eases us into it by linking things from the last scene, or the setting, so that the reader is eased into the new voice, follows, and wants to read on.

Lee takes us into Cash's--the dog's--point of view and story, as well as Mackenzie's and some of the other characters, and this increases our caring about the characters and wanting a happy ending. It also helps the reader care immensely about Cash--a pit bull--and to want to defend her against the characters who judge her solely by her breed.

Lee sprinkles backstory into the text--just enough to help us understand why things are important. She also uses foreshadowing a few times to draw the reader forward, or to help the reader feel like they know something about the scene coming up, which works well.

One small thing that bothered me after reading--I thought that Abi, the girl on the train, was young, perhaps Mackenzie's age; i didn't realize, til near the end, that she was older. Also, a few times the story felt like it was teaching us--a little too hard--that pit bulls are good animals, and that it's only when they're taught to attack that they might attack, and that it's people's misconceptions that are the problem. I would have liked this toned down just a little. Sometimes, especially in the section with the "newspaper articles", it felt preachy, and in the section with the Humane Society statement, we lost the character over the message. But that was quite brief.

Lee uses language beautifully, and at times poetically--drawing the reader in and saying so much at the same time through vivid metaphors. I love her use of language. There are two villains in the story, and it is satisfying that neither of them win and neither of them have happy endings.

The bond between the boy and the dog are so strong, and ultimately this helps save one of their lives--perhaps both--which is moving. So many threads are pulled together nicely--side or background characters that we still care about are given their own happy endings, and things come together in a way that seems perfect. The ending is moving and feel-good, and all the characters come together in a beautifully orchestrated way. To me it was like reading genius.

Dog Lost is a story that's sure to become a favorite. Highly recommended!

-Added September 17, 2008

Want more books?

Go back to Surviving Abuse: Learning to Thrive to find great Great Middle Grade Books.

Or, go to Great Middle Grade Books to see all of the books.