Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Dog Book Review: Julia Gillian (and the Dream of the Dog) (girl, St. Bernard, Minneapolis)

Julia Gillian (and the Dream* of the Dog), by Alison McGhee (Scholastic Press, 2010, 328 pages, $16.99, ages 8-12, grades 3-7)

Julia Gillian has Grown Up! (A Little Bit)

Julia Gillian is now a Sixlet (in sixth grade) and goes to middle school with the bigger, more suave (and scary) Sevvies and Crazy Eights (seventh and eighth graders).

It is often hard to grow up because we do so at different rates in different directions. Fortunately Julia Gillian has her wonderful hippie-like teacher-parents, babysitter Enzo and Enzo’s older brother Zap­ living in a downstairs apartment, and her three school buddies, along with several rock-steady adults in her Minneapolis neighborhood.

And, of course, Bigfoot, her St. Bernard and best friend who is exactly the same age, 11. And being 11 means that Julia Gillian can now walk anywhere within an 11-block square, if Bigfoot is with her, and he loves to be. But 11 is rather old for a dog, especially a big one like Bigfoot. Bigfoot is slowing down.

What this means is that Julia Gillian’s beloved St. Bernard Bigfoot is also two years older than in the original book in the series, Julia Gillian (and the Art of Knowing) but Bigfoot remains the Dog of her Dreams and still sleeps on the magenta pillow next to Julia Gillian’s bed.

Other Stars of a Kind

Book two in the trilogy
Also starring with Julia Gillian are illustrator Drazen Kozjan and – Minneapolis! Readers living in the Twin Cities will know Lake Harriet and Dunwoody and Lake Calhoun and Bryant and Emerson and Dupont and Fremont and Girard Street.

The Plots Thicken

Julia Gillian is practicing to increase the number of free-throws (basketball) she can shoot in a row (over 100 so far), she is trying to figure out how to help her third-grade Reading Buddy read more – like Julia Giliian herself, he hates to read.

And then, beloved Bigfoot develops cardiomyopathy, an enlarged heart. Of course, our hero believes the Dog of her Dreams has always had the biggest heart ever in the canine world!

But she learns to take care of Bigfoot (or take over-care of him) with her new Bigfoot parameters – including no long walks and plenty of rest: these are ways of “controlling the variables.”

Just like in real life, many plots develop at different rates at the same time. The reader follows Julia Gillian through middle school daily life but, more so than in the Wimpy books, this series tackles some tough issues. We can’t wait for the next one! (We skipped the second title in the trilogy, Julia Gillian (and the Quest for Joy).

*Parents, you may want to read this book before your child does and determine if she can handle it alone or if perhaps read it on a weekend. This is that nowadays-rare book in which the dog dies with many pages devoted to the family’s remembrances and reminiscences and also to friends’, neighbors’ and buddies’ reactions in helping Julia Gillian.

Yesterday: Julia Gillan (and the Art of Knowing)

Caveat: This title was first observed in a bookstore and then checked out from the county library.

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