soup of the day: hound dog true by linda urban

“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)

I’m absolutely over the moon today because it’s the official book birthday of Linda Urban’s brand new middle grade novel, Hound Dog True (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011)!!

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.

“Down they go, down the rise, toward the house together, carrying carrots.”

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?

Tuesday is Pizza Day, a single compost bucket day at Mattie’s school.

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!

Today’s Special: Custodial Chowder (seasoned with courage to fix you right up)

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.

Potluck: “Dainty thing, the Queen. Ate spare ribs with her gloves on. Hound dog true.”

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!!


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.


♥  Linda Urban’s official website and blog. Take a peek at Linda’s notebook with small notes from Hound Dog True (be sure to click on the image).

♥ Reviews: Publishers WeeklyFuse 8 (SLJ), Jen Robinson’s Book Page, Dog Ear, Kate Messner, Shelf Awareness.

♥ Recent Interviews: Kathy Erskine, Literary Friendships (Audrey Vernick), Straight from the Jar (Ingrid Law), Kate Messner.

♥ Bookstore Appearances:

Vroman’s in Pasadena, September 28, 7 p.m.

Politics & Prose, Washington, D.C., October 27, 10:30 a.m.

♥ 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.

25 thoughts on “soup of the day: hound dog true by linda urban

  1. What an awesome post! Now I want to go read HOUND DOG TRUE again, and I think I will. (And it must be said, Jama: yours is one of the most consistently beautiful blogs out there. It’s always a visual treat to visit.)


    1. Aw, thanks, Audrey! Glad you joined the party today; loved your interview with Linda :).

      I’ve read HDT three times already, each time marveling anew at the beautiful craftsmanship that went into the novel. I love that Linda trusts the reader to get it; she never over explains, never an unnecessary word.


  2. OH!!!!! Thank you so much, Jama, for this beautiful post. Never before have I wanted to both frame and eat something at the same time. Gorgeous.
    Thanks, too, for your sensitive reading of Mattie’s story. The blog world is lucky to have you.


    1. You are now three for three and one of my favorite contemporary children’s authors :). This one resonated with me the most because I was a shy child, and am a shy adult. You simply nailed what that’s like.


    1. Thanks for coming to the party, Amy! The food references in the book were wonderful; makes me miss school cafeteria food . . . yeah, I know. 🙂


  3. Beautiful, beautiful review. This is a story I have longed to read, and your review captures what is so special about it in such a poignant way. Well done.


  4. Like so many others, I was already hungry for this book, but am absolutely drooling now. Lucky me, I will be headed to Burlington this weekend and get a copy hopefully fresh from LInda’s hands.

    Thanks for the great party, Jama!


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