Notes from a Liar and Her Dog

Notes from a Liar and Her Dog

4.5 22
by Gennifer Choldenko
     
 

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Eleven-year-old Ant, stuck in a family that she does not like, copes by pretending that her "real" parents are coming to rescue her, by loving her dog Pistachio, by volunteering at the zoo, and by bending the truth and telling lies. See more details below

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Overview

Eleven-year-old Ant, stuck in a family that she does not like, copes by pretending that her "real" parents are coming to rescue her, by loving her dog Pistachio, by volunteering at the zoo, and by bending the truth and telling lies.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Choldenko (MOONSTRUCK) vividly captures the feelings of a middle child torn between wanting to be noticed and wanting to be invisible, through the narration of sixth grader Ant (Antonia) MacPherson. And believes she was misplaced at birth. "Dear Real Mom, / this is what I would like to happen. I would like you and my real dad to come RIGHT NOW," she writes in the book she's keeping for her "real parents." She feels like the thorn between two roses, overshadowed by her sisters ("Your Highness Elizabeth" and "Katherine the Great") and misunderstood by her mother and father. She takes solace in the idea of a fantasy family, and in the company of her beloved dog Pistachio and quirky best friend Harrison (he's obsessed with chickens) as well as the nest of falsehoods she constructs for herself. Some have serious consequences, such as switching her stellar report cards with Harrison's lackluster ones, dodging vet bills and accidentally endangering herself and others while volunteering at the zoo.

A sympathetic art teacher Just Carol ("she always says "just call me Carol,"), glimpses the hurt behind Ant's misdeeds and steps in, but ultimately it's up to Ant to face some hard truths, take responsibility for her behavior and forge a fresh start with her family. Poignant passages belie Ant's tough exterior, as with her observations about her best friend, and her interaction with her father upon his return from a six-week business trip. This funny and touching novel portrays the tug-of-war within this strong heroine and taps into very real emotions.

Susan Dove Lempke
Gr. 5-8. Ant, short for Antonia, is keenly aware that her mother finds her deeply annoying and uncomfortable to be around. She is so different from her sisters, "Her Highness Elizabeth" and Katy, that she becomes convinced that she's adopted. The saving graces in her life are her Chihuahua, Pistachio, her friend Harrison (with whom she swaps her great grades for his terrible ones), and a teacher, who goes by Carol ("Just Carol" as Ant always calls her). Just Carol gets work in a zoo for Harrison and Ant, but when Ant smuggles Pistachio into the zoo, endangering herself and the animals, she almost loses Just Carol's support.

Choldenko catches the prickliness of adolescence, making Ant fearful and vulnerable as well as a sharp observer, particularly of adult frailities. As Ant eventually realizes, although Mother prefers the reflection of herself that she sees in her other two daughters, Ant is just as clearly her mother's offspring. Funny, moving, and completely believable, this is a fine first novel.
Booklist

Ant MacPherson has a perfectly good first name: Antonia. Her mother could never consider calling her anything else. "When I named you, you were the sweetest, most perfect little baby," her mother tells her. Then she sighs. She has compromise on her mind. Would Ant consider Tony as a possible nickname, instead? "Tony I could live with," Mrs. McPherson says. "Tony is kind of cute. How about Tony?" "My name is Ant," Ant says. It isn't easy to be oneself, especially if that self is scruffy, fiercely independent, and—when circumstances call for it—a liar. No doubt it would be easier to be soft and cute, like her sisters Elizabeth and Kate. Then Mrs. McPherson (who is not Ant's real mother, Ant tells everyone) would love Ant the way she does her other two daughters. But Ant is not one to take the easy way out. No, even though no one, Ant is sure, will ever rescue her or her beloved dog, Pistachio, she can survive. If Pistachio has to get to the vet, Ant will get him to the vet, even if it can only be accomplished by lying. If Pistachio has to get his heart pills on time, Ant will sneak him along to her volunteer job at the zoo, even if it brings trouble to Ant's best friend and to a teacher who has decided to reach out to the wary girl. Ant will protect that old, stiff, ripe-smelling dog even if she has to go inside of a lion's cage to do it. What are frustrated adults to do with this stubborn, lying, often bellicose youngster? Perhaps, they could prove Ant wrong in her assertion that the boy who cried wolf should never have expected anyone to help in the first place. A fresh-out-of-college teacher could keep pushing her way into Ant's life. A father could rethink his own career plans. And justonce, a mother could listen to her daughter's rebuff, and instead of saying "sometimes you make me so angry, I could tear my hair out," she could try a little smile. She could cover Ant's hand with her hand. "All right...Ant," she could say. 2001, G.P. Putnam Sons, 244 pages,
— Jane Kurtz
Children's Literature
The author's first work will delight readers with its humor and draw them into a kinship with Antonia, the misunderstood middle daughter of a stay-at-home mom and traveling dad. Her perspective on any given situation will be in contrast to those around her. Unfortunately, her skewed outlook appears to others as chronic lying. Downtrodden at home, she writes to her "real" parents in her journal; she doesn't believe that those living in her house are her birth family. By being "different" from her sisters, she has somewhat alienated both of her parents and siblings. Her steadfast devotion to a dog, friendship with the neighborhood geek, and intervention of a caring art teacher, help Ant to develop her own voice in interacting with her family. 2001, G.P. Putnam's Sons, $16.99. Ages 10 to 14. Reviewer: Mary Sue Preissner
VOYA
Ant feels as though no one loves her or cares, a feeling that helps readers relate to her. I enjoyed the way the book was written and the characters. It was a funny story of self-discovery that really sparks the desire to think about your own life. The story makes you wonder about people and things and value them more. Most of all, it helps you feel better that you are not the only one trying to find yourself and understand others around you. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2001, Putnam's, 244p, $18.99. Ages 12 to 15. Reviewer: Jasmine Williamson, Teen Reviewer SOURCE: VOYA, August 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 3)
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Author Gennifer Choldenko (Putnam, 2001) captures the thoughts and feelings of sixth grader Antonia (Ant) MacPherson, who has made lying a way of life. Ant can't believe she is part of the MacPherson family. Her exasperated mother nags and criticizes her endlessly. Her ballerina sisters are too perfect for words, winning their mother's affection with methods Ant abhors. Ant's dad moves from job to job, so the family must move from town to town.The most important people in Ant's life are her odd artist friend, Harrison, and a caring art teacher. When her lies spin out of control and hurt those she loves, Ant realizes she must make a change. Choldenko does not offer any easy answers, and the results are riveting. Narrator Ariadne Meyers does an excellent job conveying Ant's sarcasm and tenderness. Her flexible voice brings Choldenko's three dimensional characters to life, from the amusing haughtiness of Ant's sister Katherine the Great to the surprising vulnerability of her mother. Meyers is a versatile storyteller, ably conveying the tension of a mother/daughter confrontation as well as the love a young girl feels for her less-than-perfect pet. As Ant's lies accumulate and she feels the repercussions, the novel grows in power. Yet this is no sentimental melodrama. The story has its share of hilarity and gross-out moments (thanks to Ant's stint as a zoo volunteer). The entire production is first rate.-Brian E. Wilson, Oak Lawn Public Library, IL Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Sixth-grader Antonia "Ant" MacPherson, a difficult middle-child with "thick, straight dark hair and skin the color of a brown paper grocery bag," feels like an ugly duckling among her blond mother and sisters. She lies routinely to champion her tiny elderly dog, Pistachio, and her chicken-loving artist friend and classmate Harrison. Bright (she's selected to compete on her school's math team), funny, prickly, and defensive, Ant composes letters to her "real" parents and looks for an ally in Just Carol ("Not Ms. or Miss or Mrs. Anything"), the young art teacher who befriends Harrison and Ant. Ant has lived nearly two years in the California city of Sarah's Road, but frequent moves have left scars on the family. At 12, Ant nurtures a painful relationship with her mother, who seems to diminish and insult her almost unconsciously: "She sees a weed growing in the lawn and . . . she just can't stop herself from swooping down and snatching it out . . . I will always be a weed to her. I am all wrong." Just Carol takes Harrison and Ant to volunteer at the city's zoo, but Ant sabotages the day by concealing Pistachio in her jacket pocket so she can keep his medication on schedule. When the feisty dog escapes and tries to take on a lion, Carol-furious with Ant-lies about the uproar in the lion's enclosure to protect her volunteer job. Ant's loneliness and pain ring true but we don't get a complex sense of Ant's interior life, despite the first-person narrative. The convergence of plot points is disjointed; even a vigilant reader may be baffled about the timeline. A climactic return visit to the zoo (Pistachio nearly becomes lion-food again, and Ant puts herself in harm's way to save him)blunts the emotional impact of chapters near the end where Ant achieves a truce with her mother. Lots of ingredients but only moderately satisfying results. (Fiction. 10-14)
From the Publisher
"Funny, moving and completely believable, this is a fine first novel." -Booklist, starred review

"For any kid who is a middle child, for kids who have trouble getting along with their parents, for kids who are sure that their parents prefer their siblings, this book will bring delight and understanding." -School Library Journal, starred review

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780399235917
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date:
05/28/2001
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
5.75(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.92(d)
Lexile:
580L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Funny, moving and completely believable, this is a fine first novel." -Booklist, starred review

"For any kid who is a middle child, for kids who have trouble getting along with their parents, for kids who are sure that their parents prefer their siblings, this book will bring delight and understanding." -School Library Journal, starred review

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