"Orca Currents continues its line of hard-hitting novels for reluctant readers with this brutal yet rewarding moral quagmire…Polak writes with a nervy confidence, and her specificity…lends an authenticity that lives beyond the book's relatively few pages. A powerful story for anyone who has ever looked into the eyes of a dog and accepted the offer: 'Be good to us, and we'll be good to you.'"
Word of Mouse Book Reviews blog
"This is a great read for the 9 to 12 year-old animal lover in your life or the teen who is feeling like he/she does not fit in...This juvenile novel was an engaging read and well-written from Justin’s perspective. I really did see his world through his eyes and level of understanding."
"Not a taxing read and students will find the end of the novel comes quite quickly. This novel will be good for students who are interested in reading about topics that are serious however need a book that is a more accessible reading level."
Washington State YA Review
"[The] storyline would attract the reluctant or low reader who likes realistic animal stories."
Montreal Review of Books
"As ever, Polak's narrative style is succinct and engaging. Such abstract concepts as ethics and empathy are given concrete forms through a story that will particularly appeal to reluctant readers."
"The story is an interesting one, with enough action and engaging characters to easily hook reluctant readers… Can provide some excellent food for thought regarding ethical questions of treatment of animals and whether an individual's need can excuse participation in unethical activities."
Children's Literature - Peg Glisson
Thirteen-year-old Justin lives with his unemployed, bitter, alcoholic and abusive father in a small Montreal apartment. Mom has been out of the picture for so long Justin's not sure he remembers what she looks like. Justin is responsible for keeping up the apartment, making meals, and finding cans and bottles to turn in for cash to buy what they need. He finds some peace at the neighborhood store, where he has connected with Smokey, the old guard dog there. When the handlers responsible for Smokey offer him an after-school job, he jumps at the chance. There is no glamour; his job is to feed, water, scoop poop, and not ask questions. Before long, however, he becomes suspicious about the men for whom he works and must deal with his own uncomfortable feelings about what is going on. When ordered to abandon the old, ineffective Smokey by the side of the road, Justin does so; but he returns later that evening with his friend Amanda and miraculously finds the dog. While the subject matter will be of interest to many readers and has several hooks for reluctant readers, the book just does not hold together and the ending wraps everything up too neatly. The dog handlers get their due; Dad is on the road to reform and gainful employment; Amanda and her family have taken Justin and his Dad under their wing. Polak's writing includes a lot of "telling not showing," with Justin's thoughts expressly written out for readers. The story does present several issues that would be springboards for ethical discussions around personal responsibility and treatment of animals. Reviewer: Peg Glisson
Read an Excerpt
One of the private-school boys grabs hold of his buddy's arm. "Let's get outta here," he says. "See the fangs on that monster? And the way his ears are sticking up?"
I don't like him calling Smokey a monster. If Smokey's baring his fangs, it's because he's on the alert.
I head for the cash. I feel like Smokey needs me. Like I understand him in a way no one else does.