Letters to Leo, by Amy Hest (Candlewick Press, 2012, 154 pages, $14.99, ages 8-12)
A fourth-grade girl wants a dog – how typical! Less typical is the story: Annie lives in New York City with her absent-minded professor dad and finally, finally gets a dog! Yippy skippy!
Annie writes to her dog, Leo, in a journal (hence, the title – Letters to Leo) and reads to Leo every night from the journal. Leo is a good listener, just like Annie loved to listen to her mother read at night.
Remember fourth grade? A best friend who moves away, a difficult subject in school, embarrassing incidents in the cafeteria or on the playground, a teacher to love or dislike or perhaps go on pregnancy leave, looking forward to summer vacation.
Letters to Leo is a charming story that everyone can relate to. Daily life in a home with a dog – and a wonderful surprise (though not unexpected) ending full of promise and, I suspect, more books in the series.
Some journal entries are longer than others, just as in real life but one of the charms of Letters to Leo are the line drawings – simple and yet adorable self-portraits, maps, and, of course, Leo!
Caveat: Annie is a fourth-grader: I suspect that readers in the upper ranges of the recommended age level, ages 8-12, for Letters to Leo might not be as interested as those in the lower ages unless they dearly love dogs.