Waiting for the Magic

Patricia MacLachlan, illus. by Amy June Bates. S&S/Atheneum, $15.99 (160p) ISBN 978-1-4169-2745-7
Newbery Medalist MacLachlan tackles the familiar yet always heart-wrenching subject of parental separation in her venerable spare and moving style. "It was early on a Saturday summer morning when my mother and father stopped arguing and Papa walked away," begins William, a fourth-grader who is quietly shaken and angry at his father's departure. He is astounded when his mother, engulfed by emotion, immediately drives him and his four-year-old sister, Elinor, to the pound, where they bring home all four dogs they find, plus a cat. The characters are individualistic, believable, and likable, and the impulsive acquisition and heartwarming presence of the animals suggest an affecting work of realistic fiction. MacLachlan moves it into fantasy, however, by creating voices—wise ones—for each of the dogs, which Elinor can immediately hear; the others must open themselves to the possibility of magic before they come to hear the dogs, as well. While the talking animals initially feel like a contrivance, they bring an amusing and uplifting tenderness to this story of a family working to trust again—readers facing similar turmoil will wish they had such a source of support. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/04/2011
Release date: 09/01/2011
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