“You’ve got to trust the moon, if you want the moon to trust you,” he said, handing Mattie his hat. (Uncle Potluck from Hound Dog True)
So glad you’re here for the celebration. Are you wearing your party clothes (pajamas would be best)? For the duration of this post, please put on these sparkly mouse ears,
and a pair of rubber gloves.
(They’ll help you channel the main character of the story.)
Now, since I absolutely loved A Crooked Kind of Perfect and Mouse Was Mad (which we celebrated here), I was very anxious to read more of Linda’s work. Like Crooked, Hound Dog True started out as a picture book. It’s beautifully crafted with a brand of spare prose that tugs at the heartstrings and perfectly captures the inner life of a painfully shy 10-year-old girl.
Mattie Breen will be entering 5th grade at yet another new school. She and her Mom have moved in with Uncle Potluck, a custodian at Mitchell P. Anderson Elementary. Mattie’s happy to live in her mother’s childhood home and shadow her good-hearted, gregarious uncle, who tells the best stories and seems to know her better than anyone else.
She hopes to become Uncle Potluck’s Custodial Apprentice to avoid having to interact with other students during the “lawless times” of recess and lunch. So the week before school starts, Mattie tags along and takes notes on everything Uncle Potluck does, such as fixing leaks, changing light bulbs, cleaning sinks. If she can stick by him with her newly acquired “Custodial Wisdom,” she won’t have to worry about making new friends, struggling to fit in, or dealing with kids who think she’s stuck up instead of shy.
What she doesn’t anticipate is feeling threatened by new neighbor Quincy Sweet, an older girl whose matter-of-fact coolness makes her feel babyish. Mattie panics at Quincy’s overtures of friendship, remembering how Star bullied her the previous year after reading a story she’d written in her notebook. How Mattie would love to have a best friend, how she desperately needs one — but does she dare let Quincy in and risk revealing her true self? And what does she do when her carefully conceived apprentice plan falls apart?
Hound Dog True has already earned *starred reviews* from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, who said, “Mattie’s growing trust of others and her attempts to be ‘bold and friendly’ lead to gratifying rewards for Mattie and poignant moments for readers.” Mattie’s gradual emotional transformation is traced with exquisite sensitivity and powerful telling detail. I love the true-to-life characters, brilliant interior monologues, spot on depiction of what it means to be shy, and the author’s full understanding of how seemingly small things can mean the world to kids. And how much do I love that Linda named a character “Potluck”? After reading this story, you’ll want him to be your uncle, too. ☺
Readers will root for Mattie as she attempts one small, brave thing, makes a new friend, and finds her voice. This short novel, laced with tender moments of gentle humor, truly is, as Jennifer M. Brown at Shelf Awareness calls it, “a masterpiece of understatement.” Full of heart, hound dog true at its core, I give it my highest five spoon rating!
The alphabet soup kitchen helpers were especially excited about preparing today’s celebration soup. They still can’t stop talking about the cool soup can telephone in the story, or the frequent mention of “cafeteria,” or the homey smell of something tomato-y cooking in Uncle Potluck’s kitchen. I daresay Potluck may be their favorite character ever; they’ve yet to meet a man who can tell people’s fortunes by the way they eat corn on the cob. Fasten your bibs, grab your biggest spoons in honor of Linda and Mattie: Dip, Dip, SLURP, SLURP!
Good job! For the next course, please replace your rubber gloves with these:
Seems Uncle Potluck once met the Queen of England at a barbecue joint.
Yes, yes, I know you want your dessert. In honor of lost button Moe, some cupcakes,
and some mousey cake pops:
To top everything off, some homemade moon pies to inspire you to tell your secrets to the “brave round moon,” just like Mattie and Quincy did.
Oink! Now that you’re all sugared up, get yourself over to your local indie or click through to your fave online bookseller to score your very own copy of Hound Dog True. Best to wear your pjs and rubber gloves just so everyone knows how excited you are about this book. Bring a raspberry popsicle for the cashier, and greet him/her with “Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Poor Moe.” You are bound to get a discount.
Thanks for writing this cool book, Linda! Congratulations!!
HOUND DOG TRUE
by Linda Urban
published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, September 2011
Fiction for ages 8-12, 160 pp.
Cool themes: Friendship, shyness, socialization, custodial arts, uncles, mothers and daughters, bullying, writing, school.
♥ Bookstore Appearances:
♥ Linda will be at the Burlington Book Festival this weekend! Details here.
♥ More Soup of the Day posts here.
**Photo Credits: Garden Carrots by alon salant/flickr, Mouse Pops by chadsellers/flickr, Ribs and Corn by Betty Crocker, Moon Pies by Brown Eyed Baker/flickr, Pizza by yancunyong/flickr, Blank Notebook Page by D. Sharon Pruitt/flickr.
Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.