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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hound Dog True, written by Linda Urban. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011. $18.99 ages 10 and up

"I will spare you a description of the pain I then endured and the vocabularic offenses I thus unleashed, but I will tell you that with all my yelling and cursing, I also unleashed Stella, who tore off into the woods and -" There is a buzzing sound, and Uncle Potluck pats his shirt pocket, searching for his cell phone. Mattie finishes his sentence. "And that's how you got your traitorous knee."

Mattie is going to be the new kid in school, an all too familiar challenge for the very shy and sensitive ten year old. She is unbearably nervous about meeting new people and detests finding things to do at recess while everyone else is with friends. Quincy lives close-by; but, she is older and Mattie is tentative about developing a friendship with her. As we watch Mattie, we see that she is learning to open herself up to new experiences quietly, and slowly. It is a lovely transformation, though gentle and ongoing.

Mattie is a writer. She knows that. However, she harbors a worry about teasing, as she has experienced it in a previous school. That encounter is fresh in her mind whenever she tries to write anything new. Her sensitivity does not allow her to brush off the memory. It takes maturity and a measure of confidence for her to move forward with her dreams.

Just as Mattie is quiet, this is a quiet story whose characters will make you laugh and make your heart ache for Mattie for the many insecurities that she feels. Linda Urban has fully developed Mattie's personality so that she becomes very real for her readers. Uncle Potluck is the uncle that every child should have. He's funny, thoughtful, and full of wisdom. He talks to the moon, for heaven's sake. He encourages Mattie and helps her realize her strengths. I love his stories, and your listeners will love them, too. True? Only Uncle Potluck knows that for sure!

If you were a shy kid, or ever felt shy about anything, you will find yourself here, in the elegant words of this talented and caring author.

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