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Friday, September 21, 2018

Missing Mike, by Shari Green. Pajama Press, 2018. $18.95 ages 10 and up

"Dad's arm shoots out
stops me
steers me
toward the car.
"Where's Mike?" he asks
and I tell him Mike's gone
and I have to find him - I know
I can find him.
I just need time.
"There's no time," Dad says.
I twist away
run for my bike ... "

This is a pretty ominous beginning for a tale that speaks to some of our worst fears. What if ... 

What if your house and community was in the path of terrifying wildfires? What if your dog was
so scared he ran away to escape the smoke and unease felt about the approaching danger? What if you had to leave without him?

Having spent a good part of the summer here listening to reports of the destruction caused by wildfires on the west coast of Canada and the United States, this book is an excellent way to get kids thinking about the dire consequences of such events in peoples' lives. It is a moving account of the terror and anguish felt by those who live where those fires rage.

With the news that they should be prepared to evacuate at any time, Cara, her sister and her family make the preparations needed to be safe. It is still alarming when the police officer comes to the door, giving them ten minutes to get out.

"Ten minutes.
Ten minutes to pack up and leave our home.
Ten minutes to grab out just-in-case backpacks
and as much food and clothing
as we can
toss it all into the trunk
with the emergency bins
full of bottled water
protein bars and a baggie of Mike's kibble
first-aid kit, radio, flashlight, tarp
and matches - which is about the stupidest thing

There is no time to find Mike, and Cara is heartbroken. She has loved that dog since the moment she saw him at the shelter, a one-eyed grown mutt that is also missing a part of his ear. They spend every minute they can together. We know before they have to leave just how much Cara and Mike love each other. It is almost impossible for her to deal with leaving him behind them.

Their flight is terrifying as they travel the one road out of their community, with trees burning, cars stalled along the way and ash filling the air. It's hard to breathe, harder still to keep calm in the resulting chaos. They finally make it to a shelter, find a host family to stay with, and make new friends. All the while, Cara cannot escape the alarming concern she is feeling for her cherished pet.

The tense telling will keep readers intent on reading (or hearing) more. While there are bright spots along the way, Cara and her family are faced with uncertainty, fear, and a hope for a return to their community. When they finally get the okay to go back, they are faced with the tragic and uplifting results of the catastrophe. To say much has changed is an understatement. Cara, who has been reflecting on the meaning of 'house' and 'home', discovers they are distinctly different things.

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