Notes from the Dog

( 30 )

Overview

"Siometimes having company is not all it's cracked up to be."

Fifteen-year-old Finn is a loner, living with his dad and his amazing dog, Dylan. This summer he's hoping for a job where he doesn't have to talk to anyone except his pal Matthew. Then Johanna moves in next door: She's 10 years older, cool, funny, and she treats Finn as an equal. Dylan loves her, too. Johanna's dealing with breast cancer; and Matthew and Finn learn to care for her, emotionally and physically. When she hires Finn to create a garden, ...

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Overview

"Siometimes having company is not all it's cracked up to be."

Fifteen-year-old Finn is a loner, living with his dad and his amazing dog, Dylan. This summer he's hoping for a job where he doesn't have to talk to anyone except his pal Matthew. Then Johanna moves in next door: She's 10 years older, cool, funny, and she treats Finn as an equal. Dylan loves her, too. Johanna's dealing with breast cancer; and Matthew and Finn learn to care for her, emotionally and physically. When she hires Finn to create a garden, his gardening ideas backfire comically. But Johanna and the garden help Finn discover his talents for connecting with people.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Paulsen (Mudshark) writes another touching story about human kindness and humanity. Reclusive and insecure, Finn lives with his father, his dog and his friend Matthew, whose parents are divorcing. Being 14 isn't easy for Finn (“I feel like an alien dropped onto a strange planet and that I always have to be on the lookout for clues and cues on how to act and what to say,” he muses), and his plan for summer is to talk to “fewer than a dozen people” and read as many books as possible. However, his intentions are thwarted when 24-year-old Johanna shows up to house-sit for his neighbors. She is lighthearted, imaginative, optimistic and has breast cancer. While Finn is usually overwhelmed by human contact, Johanna's sensitivity is disarming, and she hires him to plant a garden for her as a distraction from her illness. The plot is straightforward, but Paulsen's thoughtful characters are compelling and their interactions realistic. This emotional, coming-of-age journey about taking responsibility for one's own happiness and making personal connections will not disappoint. Ages 12–up. (July)
VOYA - Kevin Beach
This brief novel explores one eventful summer in the life of a meek and geeky teen, Finn, who would rather have his nose in a book than interact with family or friends. Then in moves a force of nature next door named Johanna, a bald but ebullient twentysomething cancer patient. She immediately turns Finn's life upside down by hiring him to plant a garden, coercing him to help her raise funds for a cancer fun run, and making a date for him with a girl he has been too shy to approach. Thrown into this mix are Finn's only real friend, Matthew, his single-parent father, and his unusually human dog, Dylan, who keeps showing up with handwritten notes for Finn in his mouth. Consequently Finn discovers a developing talent for connecting with others as he breaks out of his seclusion and soon the lives of his father and even his granddad are touched by his efforts. There is an undercurrent of lighthearted comedy in Finn's efforts with the garden and his fundraising speeches. Given the brevity of the book and its inclination to be a book for "boys," it could be recommended to reluctant readers. The author certainly has a long history of success in reaching the teen audience, however, in this book, the dialogue and story line seem a little too pleasant and the lives of the teens lack any real angst or conflict outside the horrors of Johanna's chemo side effects. Reviewer: Kevin Beach
Children's Literature - Karen Leggett
Gary Paulsen has written another treasure, but the challenge this time is not weather or wildlife but befriending a young woman with cancer. Joanna has moved in next door, just as Finn was planning a summer with as little contact as possible with any other human beings. Joanna not only changes the summer but the rest of Finn's life in a compelling story of beauty, hope, and sadness. There is beauty in the relationships Joanna nurtures so easily, hope in people's capacity for growth and change, and sadness in the cancer that clouds every chapter. Young people who feel socially awkward will identify immediately with Finn: "When other people talk, I'm so worried that what I'm going to say is going to come out wrong that I can't focus on what they're saying and then I lose track of what we were talking about in the first place." With Joanna's compassionate nudging, Finn finds ways to meet his adolescent world head on. Reviewer: Karen Leggett
School Library Journal
Gr 5–9—Fourteen-year-old Finn is terrified of meeting new people, and conversation is painful. His true friend, Matthew, is talkative, overly confident, and sometimes a thorn in his side. The boy is content with books and Dylan, his canine companion. He's determined that his summer vacation will not be marred by the intrusion of people, and thus, the discomfort they cause him. Then he meets his pretty new neighbor, 24-year-old Johanna, who shares her joy of life with Finn and Matthew and employs Finn to help her create gardens in his sorrowful-looking backyard. Johanna's enthusiasm for research, compost, fertilizer, and all things garden break down Finn's barriers. When she tells the boys that she is a breast-cancer survivor, their initial trepidation shifts to friendship. As she trains for a triathlon to raise money for cancer awareness, Finn and Matthew join her team. Right before the race, more adverse reactions to chemotherapy thwart her run, and the two boys take up the torch. Johanna's spirit and optimism infuse Finn with courage and love, and he finds his voice. Paulsen's fans may miss his trademarks: the notorious exploits of boys, the page-turning wilderness adventures, or the sled dogs that often take center stage. Yet this candid and tender tale, told with his signature humor, is a salute to the bravest of the brave.—Alison Follos, North Country School, Lake Placid, NY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375855429
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 1/25/2011
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 231,966
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Product dimensions: 8.52 (w) x 5.80 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Gary Paulsen
Gary Paulsen is the distinguished author of many critically acclaimed books for young people, His most recent books are Lawn Boy, Molly McGinty Has a Really Good Day, The Time Hackers, The Amazing Life of Birds, and Mudshark.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

Sometimes having company is not all it's cracked up to be.

I was sitting on the front steps of my house with Matthew and Dylan. Matthew was listening to his ear buds, eyes closed, half-humming, half-singing the good parts of the song like he always does, and Dylan was asleep on the ground, snoring and twitching. Matthew's into his music and Dylan's a dog so I didn't pay much attention to either of them. I was trying to read.

Matthew's the only true friend I've got.

He's not my best friend. That's Carl, because we've always got a lot of the same classes and spend the most time together in school. Matthew's not even my oldest friend. That's Jamie, because I've known her since we went to nursery school together. He's definitely not my most fun friend--that would have to be Christopher, who goes to a school for the gifted and always has some crazy story to tell about the supersmart people he knows.

Matthew lives right across the street and is always over at my house. That summer, he was actually living with us, because his parents were in the middle of a divorce. Their house was for sale and they'd each recently moved into nearby apartments. But Matthew had said he wasn't going to learn how to do the shared custody thing on his summer vacation. Then he'd said he'd just stay with us until everything got settled. I was impressed that Matthew called the shots that way, but not surprised that his folks and my dad agreed; Matthew has a way of always making sense so people go along with him.

But that's not what makes him my true friend. It's because he's the only person I know who doesn't make me feel like he's drifted off in his head when I'm talking. Anyone who listens to everything you have to say, even the bad stuff and the boring things that don't interest them, is a true friend. Matthew's always been the only person who's easy for me to talk to. He's a lot like Dylan when you think about it.

Matthew and I aren't anything alike. I know, for instance, that it's got to be easier to be Matthew than it is to be me. There's something so . . . easy about the way he does everything. He gets better grades than me, even though he hardly ever studies. He's on about a million teams at school, and whatever he does in football, baseball, basketball, tennis or track, he looks confident in a way that I never do.

He has friends in every group at school: the brainy people, who, even in middle school, are starting to worry about the "com app" (that's the universal college application form, but I only know that because I Googled the word after I heard them talking about it so much); the jocks, who carpool to their orthopedic doctor appointments together and brag about torn cartilage and bad sprains; the theater and band and orchestra members, who call themselves the arty geeks and then laugh, like it's some big joke on everyone else; and, of course, the losers.
Like me.

Matthew would never call me a loser, not to my face and not behind my back, either, but we both know that I don't fit in and that I'm just biding my time in middle school, waiting for high school and then college, after which I hope I can get a job where I'll be able to work by myself.

It's not that I don't like people, but they make me uncomfortable. I feel like an alien dropped onto a strange planet and that I always have to be on the lookout for clues and cues on how to act and what to say. It's exhausting to always feel like you don't belong anywhere and then worry that you're going to say the wrong thing all the time.

Real people seem so . . . mysterious and, I don't know, high-maintenance to me. People in books, though, I like them just fine. I read a lot, partly because when I was little and my dad couldn't afford sitters, he'd drag me to the library for his study groups. He was in night school and he's been there ever since. He'd sit me at a table near him and his classmates and give me a pile of books, a bag of pretzels and some juice boxes.

"I wish I had a dollar for every hour I've spent in the library," he always says. I have to agree--we'd probably never have to worry about money again.

So now I don't feel normal unless I've got a book in my hands, and I feel the most normal when I'm lost in a story and can ignore the complicated situations around me that never seem to work out as neatly as they do in books.

So, on that day, Matthew and Dylan and I were sitting in front of my house. It was a week after school let out for the summer.

A completely bald woman drove up, parked in front of the house next door and jumped out of her car.

I knew she'd moved in a couple of weeks ago to house-sit for our neighbors, professors on sabbatical. I'd seen her a few times from my kitchen window, but I hadn't spoken to her. I hadn't noticed she was bald, either, and that kind of detail didn't seem like one I'd miss.

She was probably in her early twenties. She was wearing faded jeans that looked way too big for her and purple cowboy boots. She carried a leather backpack and had one of those bumpy fisherman sweaters draped over her shoulders even though it was hot.

She saw me, waved and headed in our direction.

Dylan sat up as she got closer and looked at her with that teeth-baring border collie grin that scares people who don't know that dogs can smile.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 30 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(19)

4 Star

(7)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(2)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 30 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2011

    Great!

    Since I am in my mid 40's, I didn't think that this book would appeal to me. I was wrong. I cried (which is unusual for me) and laughed (which I love to do!). Gary Paulsen handled a very sensitive subject superbly. It was easy to relate to the characters, even though I am not a teenage boy. This book is worth your time.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 10, 2012

    ~

    ~ Notes from the Dog ~
    Author : Gary Paulsen

    Summary
    Johanna is house sitting for her friends for the month. When Matt and Finn see Johanna the first day she arrived, they notice something strange about her. Johanna’s skin is ghostly white, she has no hair, she is also incredibly skinny. After the boys see her, they ask her why she looks so sick and unhealthy. Johanna is battling breast cancer, and the boys decide to help her. Johanna has always wanted a garden, so Finn makes one for her in his back yard. Johanna has signed up for a Find A Cure 5k run, but the night before she becomes very ill from the chemo treatments. Finn and Matt take her place in the run, and reach their goal of donating $10,000 to the Find A Cure Foundation. Finn and Matt realize that this will be Johanna’s last summer, and plan to make it the best.

    How does the title tie in with the book??
    Finn is a boy who is raised by his father, that he rarely sees. Finn mostly hangs out with Matt over the summer, so his self – esteem is pretty low. Johanna sees this, and being her up beat self, decides to do something about it. Johanna sends messages on a piece of paper in Finn’s dog’s mouth that he then gives to Finn. The messages on the paper are inspirational, such as, “Your not as ugly as you think.” This helps Finn’s self – esteem a big way.

    Setting
    This is a modern time setting, in a small town in the United States of America.

    Recommendation
    I would recommend this book. It is inspirational, and teaches you life is not as bad as it seems. It is very inspirational to people and their family members that have faced cancer. It is a great feel - good book, just to let you know who how valuable life really is.
    This is a cute, small book perfect for anyone 6th grade – Adults.


    ~ SCHS Reader

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 14, 2011

    awesome!

    this is a great book. i highly reccomend it!

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 24, 2011

    funny

    super duper good writer and good book

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2012

    Amaxing so far

    I did not get to finish this book yet but is really good so far. Once you start reading it you cant put it down. Great book. :)

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Sally Kruger aka "Readingjunky" for TeensReadToo.com

    As a long-time Gary Paulsen fan, I'm always excited when I see he has a new book. NOTES FROM THE DOG goes in a slightly different direction than most of Paulsen's previous books. His dedication gives a hint about the topic within - "This book is dedicated with all respect and hope to everyone who has ever faced cancer."

    When a bald young woman in her early twenties moves in next door to Finn, it changes his life forever. As a loner who has vowed to spend his summer avoiding people, Finn is none too happy when his dog, Dylan, and this new neighbor seem to hit it off immediately.

    Johanna wastes no time befriending the shy Finn and the energetic Dylan. She casually explains her baldness by describing herself as a recent survivor of breast cancer. There is something about her that brings out the best in Finn, and he soon finds himself doing her bidding as he works diligently to create a beautiful garden out of his own neglected backyard.

    Finn's friend, Matthew, joins in the friendship with Johanna, and together the three have some interesting summer adventures. The main project they embark on is fundraising for a survivor triathlon Johanna is planning to enter. Through his friendship with Johanna, Finn discovers he has more of a talent for connecting with people and gardening than he ever imagined.

    Although Paulsen doesn't take his readers on the usual adventure in some far-off wilderness, his fans will still find Finn and his dog, Dylan, worthy of their attention.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2011

    Very cute

    This is a very cute book. It is great for a quick read. Good for all ages. Opens eyes of elementry kids of whats out there. Good for adults to.reccomded highly!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2014

    Question

    Is this kind of like the fault in our stars??

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2014

    Good read

    This is a realy good christian read if you beleve in miracles you would realy like this book but if you are like me i really believe in miracles and some miracles just happen like the time i had a best friend get into a really bad car accident and during those months he had live on life support for the rest of his life

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2014

    HIGHLY RECOMMEND!

    Touching story, but wonderful from start to finish!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2013

    Notes from the dog

    Wow, this book is awesome! No wonder Gary Paulsen is the best loved author alive!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2013

    Mya b.

    WANT IT SO BAD!!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2012

    AMAZINGLEY AWESOME BOOK!!! :D rivera

    I absolutley loved this book it was so good. My grandfather has cancer so this book was vert insperatinal to me. One thing i thaought was exteamly sad was that the girl was only 10 years old. I thaught it was cool that these boys who were only about 14 years old were taking care of her. So, i would deffinatly be recomending this book to all of my friends and any readers looking for a good book. :)

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2012

    Book

    I am 10 and i own the real book. So it is great and you should get it. WORTH the money

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2012

    Cute

    :3

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2011

    To many

    To many characters!!!!!!

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 1, 2011

    D

    Drucy

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 16, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    it's an ok book

    Jacob Elder
    Period 6
    Book report 2
    Notes From The Dog Summary
    The book Notes From The Dog by Gary Paulsen is a book about a kid named Finn who's friends are Mathew and his dog Dylan. Finn during the summer wants to find a job where he doesn't want to have to talk to anybody. Later a girl moves in named Johanna. Johanna is girl who wants to make an amazing garden, but she needs help, so she went to Finn for help. Once Finn told Mathew who moved in and what his job was Mathew went straight to work with him.
    When Finn was getting started making the garden Johanna saw Finn kind of hiding, so Johanna looks over to see a girl walking by named Karla. Johanna really tries to get Finn to ask her out by saying that Finn is a really great guy, but Finn refuses.
    At one point in the story Finn and Mathew see Johanna with a large amount of money and they ask what's up. Johanna says that she is raising money to help support the research for breast cancer. One point in Johanna life she had breast cancer and every year she raises money to help find the cure. Finn and Mathew ask if they can help collect money and of coarse Johanna said yah. The thing that really shocked Finn and Mathew was that Johanna was trying to collect over 10,000 dollars. After Johanna mentioned that then they were on there way.
    Later in the story Johanna comes up to Finn with a weird look on her face and she said that you are going on a date with Karla. Finn scared to death refuses to go on that date, but everything was set up and Finn couldn't back out of it. So if you want to see all the solutions to Finn's problems then read thee book Notes From The Dog by Gary Paulsen

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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