Friday, May 3, 2013

Book Review: Stay! Keeper's Story - A Keeper (dog book, children's)

Stay! Keeper’s Story, by Lois Lowry, 1997, Houghton Mifflin, 128 pp, $5.50 ($15 when first published as a hardback), ages 9-12. 
Have you ever met a canine connoisseur of French cuisine who writes poetry that ALMOST rhymes but will keep you giggling with glee? (Actually even a child can supply the final word to make each couplet rhyme before Keeper does. Keeper is a gem, of course, but still a dog, after all.)
Keeper is a dog born on the streets who leads three lives in succession, each with its bright spots and not-so-bright ones, peopled with canines and humans with their own realistic foibles.
With twinges of sadness but much more survival color and hope, and told from a dog’s ever-optimistic (almost vain) point of view, Stay! is a story you just might want to read again and again. Although it was written for children, it is a book you can read WITH your child and discuss with your child.
A thoughtful dog, Keeper periodically tries to find one of his littermates while surviving one adventure after another (living on the streets, becoming a media star, etc.), learning life along the way. 

Ever on the look-out also for a child he might call his own, Keeper could easily be a golden retriever – he is about the right size and color and even sports a flag-wav­ing 5th-appendage, a ‘lovely tail’ (in his own words).
On page 81, Keeper meets a young girl he might like to make his own: 

“I moved my lovely tail back and forth for her to admire.
“She had a similar tail of hair at the back of her head, and she swung hers back and forth in reply. I looked at it, carefully assessing it as a rival tail. But human tails do not compare with those of dogs. Hers was tied rather messily with a band of ribbon, and there was something that looked like a wad of chewing gum near the end. I do have to deal with burrs and other intrusions from time to time, so I understood the problem. Still it did not appear that she had even tried to gnaw it loose.
“When she smiled at me, I saw that her front teeth were missing, which obviously accounted for her failure in adequate grooming. Perhaps she had been in a terrible fight.”
Lowry has written more than 30 books for young adults, among them the Anastasia series and the Newbery-award winning Number the Stars and The Giver (the latter has appeared on the Banned Books list along with To Kill a Mockingbird, Harry Potter, Anne Frank, and Huck Finn!). 

She is an author well worth getting to know and Keeper is a dog with a history you will remember. 

The only thing I might change about Stay! is for Keeper to definitely be a golden retriever! 
(This review first appeared in GRREAT News, Jul-Aug 2012.)

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