Shaper

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Chad blames his grandfather Jeep and his older sister, Julia, for the death of his dog last fall. Now, as an empty summer yawns before him, Chad still isn't speaking to jeep, he avoids Julia, and he does his best to ignore the rest of the family, especially the new dog, Queenie. But on this quiet Vermont hillside there's no one but family, nothing to fill the long days ahead.

Then a new neighbor, David Burton, moves in down the hill. David is a shaper, a dog trainer who shapes ...

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Overview

Chad blames his grandfather Jeep and his older sister, Julia, for the death of his dog last fall. Now, as an empty summer yawns before him, Chad still isn't speaking to jeep, he avoids Julia, and he does his best to ignore the rest of the family, especially the new dog, Queenie. But on this quiet Vermont hillside there's no one but family, nothing to fill the long days ahead.

Then a new neighbor, David Burton, moves in down the hill. David is a shaper, a dog trainer who shapes animals' behavior using positive reinforcement. He needs an assistant, and he offers Chad the job. David also has a daughter, Louise beautiful, feisty, a dancer-who's only a year older than Chad. Suddenly Chad's life, which had seemed simple if painful, is terribly, wonderfully, confusingly complicated....

Chad uses Queenie to learn David's techniques-but who is being shaped here, Queenie, or Chad himself? And can Chad's new knowledge help him heal and find a place in his strong-willed, volatile family?

While recovering from the loss of his dog Shep, fourteen-year-old Chad tries to learn how to control the family dog Queenie with the help of a friendly new neighbor, an animal trainer.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
For Chad, the pain of loss is greater knowing that his sister Julia and his grandfather Jeep are responsible for the death of his dog. Mourning such a death is difficult, but it becomes more so for Chad when Jeep tries to make up to him by getting him another dog. No one knows what he is feeling, and Chad knows he will never forgive Julia and Jeep. Enter David Burton and his daughter Louise. David is a dog trainer in need of an assistant and hires Chad. Louise is David's daughter. What ensues complicates Chad's perceived simple life. As time goes on, his refusal to let go of his pain causes Chad to see David and Louise just like everyone else, people continually trying to make him forget his pain. Will Chad discover in time they are not what he sees? Will he heal, overcome his immense pain and return to living? Jessie Haas has written a very emotional and touching book. Many readers will easily identify with Chad's pain and anger. Haas does a beautiful job showing readers we must deal with our pain in our own manner, and this may take some time, but we can all eventually put the pain in its proper perspective and live again. 2002, Greenwillow Books, Orsborn
KLIATT
When Chad's beloved dog died back in the fall, he blamed his family for their negligence, and he has been sullen and depressed ever since. He even refuses to accept the family's new dog, rambunctious Queenie. But when summer comes and a new neighbor named David who is a dog trainer moves into their rural Vermont community, 14-year-old Chad is intrigued—and strongly attracted to David's beautiful teenage daughter, Louise. David needs an assistant to help him perfect his technique of shaping animal behavior using clicker training, which relies on the power of positive reinforcement. He hires Chad and Queenie to help him in his work—but Chad finds himself wondering if it's his own behavior that's being shaped, as he begins to warm to Queenie and learns to relate to his family again. This is much more than just a story of a boy and his dog. The information about clicker training is fascinating, and Haas, author of Unbroken and other YA novels, provides some sources of information on it hidden away on the copyright page. Beyond animal training, however, this is a tale of healing, of first love, and of learning to understand something of human psychology, too. The characters are fully realized, from Chad's stern but fiercely loving grandfather to his noisy younger brother and the lovely, clever Louise. A novel that will make readers think. KLIATT Codes: J*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior high school students. 2002, HarperCollins, Greenwillow, 186p.,
— Paula Rohrlick
VOYA
It is a beautiful summer in rural Vermont, but fourteen-year-old Chad Holloway has been angry and morose since the death of his dog. He is particularly resentful toward his grandfather, Jeep, who dealt with the badly injured dog in the simple, direct manner of a farmer and stockman. Chad's sulkiness has poisoned his relationships with all of his family members. The shaper of the story's title is an animal trainer, David Burton, who becomes the Holloways' neighbor early in the story and seems to have a knack for shaping people as well. Despite himself, Chad becomes drawn into Burton's work with dogs and horses, in part to get close to Burton's attractive daughter, Louise. In the process, he begins to learn how to move beyond his own angst-ridden self-absorption. Haas skillfully puts readers inside the head of an extremely alienated teenager, enabling them to experience vividly the social awkwardness and distress caused by Chad's determination not to relax his mask of rigid hostility. Chad's growth and recovery is incremental and convincingly grounded in his experiences over the course of the summer. As in most of her books, Haas treats her readers to evocative descriptions of the Vermont landscape, noting the gradual intrusion of modern suburban lifestyles into the rural traditions of that region. Equally characteristic and especially evident in this book is the author's deep understanding of the parallels between the art of handling animals and the art of learning how to get along with one's fellow humankind. This novel will find a place in the hands of any reader who loves horses, dogs, and rural settings. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broadgeneral YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2002, HarperCollins, 192p, Hogan
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Grieving over the recent loss of his beloved dog, 14-year-old Chad Holloway feels hurt and isolated from his family, especially from his grandfather, who ended Shep's life with a mercy bullet after the animal was hit by a car. The teen meets his unconventional new neighbor, David Burton, who enlists his aid to move a refrigerator and, later on, offers him a summer job as a research assistant. The man is a "shaper" who uses sounds from a clicker to train animals to exhibit desired behaviors. He wants to demonstrate the process with Queenie, the seemingly witless dog that Chad's family bought to replace Shep. Chad is not as intrigued by the work as he is by Burton's 15-year-old daughter, who seems oblivious to his crush on her. Yet through her, Chad begins to find his way back to his family and himself. The novel flounders almost from the start because Haas makes only marginal references to the circumstances of the dog's death and Chad's anguish over it, giving little credibility to the protagonist. Hollow characters, hackneyed dialogue, and a rambling plot further weaken the story, despite several engaging scenes that detail the shaping process with horses, dogs, and cats. The characters deliver awkward homilies on the underlying theme-that people can shape one another as well as their animals. Even die-hard animal lovers will find little to hold their interest.-William McLoughlin, Brookside School, Worthington, OH Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Chad Holloway's beloved dog, Shep, was shot and killed by Chad's grandfather. Although it was a mercy killing, Chad cannot forgive his grandfather and has not spoken a word to him since the day of the accident when he arrived home to find that Shep had been run over, shot, and buried, all without his knowledge. The new puppy, Queen, meant to replace Shep, is treated with disdain, if not contempt, by Chad. Into this predicament enters a new neighbor, David, and his lovely daughter who, at 15, is both a year older and a bit taller than Chad, but fascinating to him nonetheless. David is an animal trainer who uses a unique method of positive reinforcement that he calls "shaping." Enlisting Chad's help with research on a book he's writing, David succeeds in shaping Chad, too. Not only does Chad begin to train Queen, but he begins to like her as well. Opening himself up to Queen finally allows Chad to reconnect with his stoic grandfather and with the rest of his eccentric family. Haas (Appaloosa Zebra, 2002, etc.) manages to tie up a lot of strands in the plot, bringing both the complicated family relationships and the romantic element to a satisfying conclusion. She draws a convincing portrait of Chad, a nice kid whose adolescent self-absorption, compounded by his personal loss, temporarily makes him intolerable. (Fiction. 11-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060001711
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/1/2002
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 192
  • Age range: 11 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

Jessie Haas is the author of numerous acclaimed books for young people, including Unbroken, which was a Publishers Weekly Best Book, a School Library Journal Best Book, a Parent's Choice Gold Award winner, a Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies, and CCBC Choice. Her most recent novel, Shaper, won a Golden Kite Honor Award.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

He did not belong with them.

The vacation at the lake had proved this again, and every mile down the highway toward home reinforced it.

He couldn't go sit at a different picnic table, though. Sky would want to come with him. If he menaced Sky, Mom would shout, "Chad! For Pete's sake, be nice to him! You were four once, too, you know!"

Gib wouldn't say anything, just eat and grin, looking more like a teenager gone slightly stale than a husband and father. But Julia would say, loud enough to be heard across the interstate, "Four, fourteen-big difference!"

So best drift casually away, sandwich in hand, and pretend to study the rest area map. It stood apart under its own shingled roof, and Chad stood apart with it, stood apart in his clean white T-shirt He glanced down, his hand tightened, and mustard shot out of the ham sandwich. It made a chrome yellow splash down his chest.

'No!" He had only three shirts he could bring himself to wear, three blanks remaining from the failed family tie-dye business. He couldn't afford a mustard stain.

He took a step toward the bathroom and remembered the sandwich. If he took it in there, he'd never feel the same about it.

At the picnic table a shriek went up. Sky jerked his sandwich high in the air. It disintegrated in his little fat hand, and Queenie gulped at failing bread and ham. "Queenie, no!" Mom and Julia shouted, and Gib sat back, laughing.

The colors seemed to flare with the noise; Kool-Aid, Day-Glo, neon tie-dye. Every single member of his family wore some piece of liquidated Rainbow People inventory, and there was no way. Walk over there in his streaked whiteshirt and have Gib say, "Chad likes to dye things gradually"? Connect himself with them in the eyes of the old couple, the fat tourist family, the guy at the wheel of the yellow rental truck that had just pulled in off the highway?

No way. He wrapped his sandwich in its waxed paper bag and left it tucked in a comer of the map frame.

When he came back from the bathroom, he was yellow-stained and wet. Bleach, he was thinking, as he reached for the sandwich. Bleach might work. Two shirts were not enough

A car door slammed. Chad's hand jerked back from the sandwich, as if he'd been caught stealing.

But that was stupid. He wrapped the bag around the bottom of the sandwich and took a bite, bending forward so any remaining mustard would splurt onto the ground.

The rental truck driver came to study the map. Despite the heat, his khaki pants were crisp and pressed, and his knit shirt didn't stick to his back. Air-conditioned cab, Chad thought. But the man looked as if, no matter what, he'd always seem cooler than other people. He had a paper in his hand, and he glanced from it to the map, then reached out to trace a route from Exit 6, Chad's exit, off into the hills west of Barrett. Heading my way, Chad thought but he offered no help. He wasn't good at directions, and he wasn't good at strangers.

The man turned from the map now, with a passing glance at Chad's sandwich. It must smell wonderful to him: home-raised, home-killed, home-cured ham

Shouts gusted up from the picnic table: "Queen!" ; "Queenie! "; "Hey, Gib, get her! "

Queenie trotted across the asphalt, toward the other picnic tables and the lane where the big trucks rolled in. Toward the interstate. Her golden cars didn't even twitch at all the voices shouting her name.

Out on the highway truck brakes whooshed. A big engine geared down to swoop into the rest area. Chad felt a jolt deep in his body, as if he'd started to move and then didn't as if his insides had run into his outsides. The man beside him took a fast step in Queenie's direction.

But Gib crossed the tar in long strides. He nabbed Queenie just as she reached the truck lane. "Idiot!" Chad heard him say, before the incoming semi drowned his voice. He led her back, not reaching his arm down far enough. Queenie's neck was stretched high, and at every step Gib seemed to stretch it a little more. The man at the map made a sound under his breath, and his gaze crossed Chad's.

"People like that shouldn't be allowed to have a dog!"

Chad didn't answer.

The man went back to his rental truck. Get in, Chad thought. Drive away. But the man got a sandwich and a thermos bottle and sat at a picnic table, frowning across at Chad's family.

Mom and Gib packed up. Sky had Queenie's collar in both hands. "No, Queenie! No!" he shouted, while she sat panting tolerantly. On the way to the van, though, Sky let go.

Gib grabbed Queenie and hauled her into the vehicle. "Now stay there!"

Chad sauntered toward the van, before anyone could yell for him. He'd just disappear behind it and never come out the other side. No one would notice. He slid past the computer box and pushed Queenie's tail out of his face. The tail was one more thing he had against her; Shep hadn't had a tail. He reached his seat by the back left window and looked out. His eyes met the eyes of the rental truck man,

The man's eyes widened. His face lengthened in surprise. Then he nodded to Chad, just once. Chad looked away, feeling the heat in his face. Only when the van was in motion did he look out the window again.

The man crushed his sandwich wrapper into a ball and looked down at his hand. He'd gotten something on it, mustard or mayo.

He'd go wash, and then he'd drive down the interstate, take Exit 6, turn right at the bottom of the ramp, following them up into the hills.

There were lots of hills and lots of people living in them. Chad didn't see many of them, fewer all the time.

Shaper. Copyright © by Jessie Haas. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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