Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Although it lacks the emotional intensity that made Cleary's Newbery-winning Dear Mr. Henshaw an instant classic, this sequel offers further proof of the author's preeminence in children's fiction. Here, as in the preceding novel, she credibly and cogently writes in the voice of Leigh Botts--a boy with whom readers of both sexes will find much in common. Through entries made in a diary that he uncovers when cleaning his room, Leigh (now 14) tells of the dog that he and his friend find abandoned on the beach. The boys assume joint custody of the pet, which they name Strider. But it soon becomes evident that Strider has rescued Leigh from physical and emotional apathy. Leigh's relationship with his devoted pet gives him the strength to deal with what seem to be insurmountable problems: his parents' separation, his dad's imperfections and even his attraction to a girl at school. Zelinsky's sketchy artwork provides quietly affecting details. Once again Cleary demonstrates her ability to write from the heart. Ages 8-up. (Sept.)
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-- Leigh Botts, the protagonist of the Newbery winner Dear Mr. Henshaw (Morrow, 1983), is once again recording his thoughts on paper. While cleaning his room, he discovers his old diary and is inspired to start writing again. Now 14, he is still dealing with some of the same issues from earlier days--his parents' divorce, concerns about his father's sincerity and financial stability, and insecurities about his own identity and popularity. He also has a few new worries--namely Geneva, a girl, and Strider, a dog. Leigh and his friend Barry find the abandoned pooch on the beach and decide to try ``joint custody.'' It is not the perfect arrangement. Because Leigh's attachment to Strider fills the emotional voids in his life, he becomes reluctant to share him. Eventually, the two boys work through the tensions that threaten their friendship. At the same time, Leigh and his father develop a new understanding. Although the story is centered aroung Leigh's relationship with Strider, this is more than just ``a boy and his dog'' book. Cleary's talent for portraying the details of everyday life--both small and significant--is evident here. Her characters are unique individuals and ``every children'' at the same time. Strider lacks the subtle poignancy found in Dear Mr. Henshaw , and some readers may find Leigh's interest and responses more appropriate for an 11 or 12 year old than a 14 year old, but Cleary's fans will relate to his challenges and triumphs--whether or not they've read the first title.-- Heide Piehler, Shorewood Public Library, WI
Read an Excerpt
From the Diary of Leigh Botts
This afternoon, as Mom was leaving for work at the hospital, she said for the millionth time, "Leigh, please clean up your room. There is no excuse for such a mess. And don't forget the junk under your bed."
I said, "Mom, you're nagging. I'm going to Barry's house."
She plunked a kiss on my hair and said, "Room first, Barry second. Besides, where would the world be without nagging mothers? Everything would go to pieces."
Maybe she's right. Things are pretty deep in my room. I hauled all the rubbish out from under my bed. In the midst of all the old socks, school papers, models that have fallen apart, paperback books (one library book--oops!), and other stuff, I found the diary I kept a couple of years ago when I was a mixed-up kid in the sixth grade. Mom had just divorced Dad and moved with me to Pacific Grove, better known as P.G., where I was a new kid in school, which wasn't easy.
I sat there on the floor reading my diary, and when I finished, I continued to sit there. What had changed?
Dad still drives his tractor-trailer rig, lives mostly on the road, and is late with his child support checks or forgets them. I don't often see him, but I don't get as angry about this as I did in the sixth grade. I no longer feel like crying, but I still hurt when he doesn't telephone when he said he would. Whenever I see a big rig, excitement shoots through me until I see Dad isn't the driver. I wish--oh well, forget it.
Mom has finished her vocational nurse course and works at the hospital from three to eleven because that shift pays more than thedaytime shift. Mornings she studies to become a registered nurse so she can earn more money. We still live in what our landlady called our "charming garden cottage" but I call a shack. Mom is looking for an apartment, but so far no luck.
Twice a week I mop the floor at Catering by Katy, where Mom used to work before she got her license. Katy gives me good things to eat. I like earning my own spending money, but I feel I could use the squares of Katy's linoleum for a checkerboard in my sleep.
Mom, who used to think TV was one of the greatest evils of the universe, finally had our set repaired because my grades were good and she no longer felt TV would rot my brain and leave me twiddling my shoelaces. At first I watched everything until I got bored and cut back to news and animal programs. Then I began to feel that every lion on the Serengeti must have his own personal hairdresser. That left the news, which sometimes worries me. If I see a truck accident with the tractor hanging over the edge of a bridge, or tons of tomatoes spilled on a freeway, I can hardly breathe until I see the driver isn't Dad.
One part of my diary made me smile, the part about wanting to be a famous author like Boyd Henshaw someday. Maybe I do, maybe I don't, but I'm glad that when I wrote to him, he said I should keep a diary.
I worry about what I'm going to do 'with my life, and so does Mom. Dad is probably too busy worrying about meeting his deadline with a trailer load of lettuce before it rots to even think of me. Or maybe he is wasting his time playing video games at some truck stop.
Until the last sentence, I enjoyed writing this. Maybe I'll go back to writing in composition books, but not every day, just once in a while, like now, when I feel like writing something.
The gas station next door has stopped ping-pinging, which means it's after ten o'clock. Mom gets home about eleven-thirty, and my room is still a mess. No problem. Except for books and my diary, I'll dump everything in the trash.
I just remembered. I forgot about Barry. Strider. Copyright � by Beverly Cleary. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.