The Summer of Riley

The Summer of Riley

4.5 35
by Eve Bunting

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"Maybe that's one of the reasons people get dogs, to kind of close up the empty places inside them."

Eleven-year-old William never needed a friend more than now. After his parents' separation, his father's new engagement, and his grandfather's dying without any warning — adopting big, beautiful Riley is the first thing in a long time that has made

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"Maybe that's one of the reasons people get dogs, to kind of close up the empty places inside them."

Eleven-year-old William never needed a friend more than now. After his parents' separation, his father's new engagement, and his grandfather's dying without any warning — adopting big, beautiful Riley is the first thing in a long time that has made him feel better. That is, until Riley innocently chases a horse.

Local law states that any animal that chases livestock must be put to sleep. Suddenly William stands to lose another thing close to him. Together with his "totally unsurpassed" friend Grace, William begins a campaign to reverse the county commissioners' decision. But with a community divided on the issue, and the bully Ellis Porter trying to stop them at every turn, will they be able to save Riley's life?

Celebrated author Eve Bunting shows William's determined struggle to fight for what he believes in. The Summer of Riley is an inspiring novel about learning to accept life's changes, the healing power of friendship, and the unending desire to protect those we love.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"Bunting's straightforward story about an Oregon boy who learns to accept the loss of loved ones, including a dog, is heartwarming despite some heavy touches," said PW. Ages 8-12. (Apr.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Eleven-year-old William believes he has adopted the perfect dog, until Riley chases down and injures a neighbor's aging racehorse. The authorities take Riley away because in Oregon, the punishment for that canine crime is death. With his best friend, Grace, William mounts a campaign to save Riley's life, but public support for his cause is divided. The opposition leader, Ellis Porter, is a dog-hating bully on a mission to see Riley euthanized. Still struggling with his grandfather's unexpected death, his parent's divorce, and his father's impending marriage, William refuses to accept Riley's fate and uses every resource at his disposal to obtain a reprieve for his beloved pet. Bunting's moving novel is populated with sympathetic, multi-faceted characters and set against a backdrop of loss, grief and healing. It's an inspiring story about fighting for your beliefs, never giving up, and learning to cope with change that will grab young readers from the very first page and hold them tight until the last. 2001, Joanna Cotler Books/ HarperCollins, $15.95. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer:Ellen R. Braaf
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-With the recent death of his grandfather and his parents' decision to separate, 11-year-old William struggles with his grief and anger until an abandoned Lab comes into his life. Boy and dog bond immediately, but then William takes him to visit a neighbor. Without warning, Riley breaks away and begins to chase Peachie's old racehorse, causing injury to him. When the dog runs over to her farm again, she calls the animal-control officers and they take Riley away. Determined to save his pet from a possible death sentence, William begins a publicity campaign to vie for the townspeople's sympathies. Riley is saved when a man offers to take him and train him to keep an airport runway clear of birds. Although William loses the dog he loves, he realizes that he has done his best and begins to accept the changes that are taking place in his life. The interactions among various characters are well developed. This is a thought-provoking story but the resolution, though believable, is not totally satisfying since it gets everyone off the hook without any real change taking place concerning the law or people's attitudes. It is disturbing how quickly everyone except William gives up on Riley. Everything is great when he appears to be "the perfect dog," but one flaw and immediately he becomes a "throwaway" once again. Bunting has really captured the dilemma of our contemporary society, which wants simple solutions to complex situations, often demands perfection, and rejects anything less.-Carol Schene, Taunton Public Schools, MA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Boy gets dog. Boy loses dog. Boy keeps dog from being killed. William, an 11-year-old still reeling from the separation of his parents and from his grandfather's death, gets what he thinks is the perfect dog. And indeed Riley is everything a dog should be: loyal, loving, intelligent. Because of their relationship, William begins to feel happier and more complete. He tries to explain his feelings to his best friend, Grace, who perceptively says, "Maybe that's one of the reasons people get dogs, to kind of close up the empty places inside them." Then trouble hits. Riley rushes an old horse named the Sultan and hurts it, though exactly what happened is left deliberately and annoyingly unclear. "One minute Riley was snapping at the Sultan's heels and the Sultan was whinnying and kicking back. The next minute the Sultan was down." The horse's owner calls animal control and Riley is taken away to be destroyed. William's parents hire a lawyer and William begins to wage a publicity campaign to save his pet. But many of the town members, including a local bully, do not support Riley, and forcefully and articulately state the opposing view. By keeping what happened ambiguous and being so evenhanded, the author blunts reader identification with her protagonist and his cause, and the end, which should be moving, fails to touch the heart. At best, a lesson that there are at least two sides to every issue. (Fiction. 8-12)
School Library Joumal
“A thought–provoking story.”

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.69(d)
540L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

I got my dog, Riley, exactly two months after my grandpa died. Grandpa lived with us and he was my best pal. To tell the truth, I think Mom let me get a dog so I'd start feeling better.

She drove Grace and me into Portland because it's good to get an animal from the pound. You could be saving its life. I picked mine out from all the other dogs right away. A Lab, not quite purebred, but great-looking anyway. His coat was the color of a lion's, but smooth and shiny.

"I'd say he's got some collie in him, too," the pound man told us.

"I thought you wanted a middle-sized dog," Grace said.

I thought I did." I hugged Riley around his middle. "I changed."

Grace nodded. "Cool!"

Grace is my best friend, even if she is a girl. I guess boys, or at least boys my age, which is eleven, are not supposed to even like girls. But I like Grace, and I don't care what anybody thinks.

"Was he a stray?" Mom asked the pound man.

He shook his head. "He was turned in by his owners. That's how come he has a name already." He looked at me. "You can change it if you like."

"Uh-uh," I said. "Riley's just fine."

Mom was frowning. "Why did his owners turn him in? He's not a biter, is he?"

"No way." The pound man put his hand under Riley's chin. "Is this the face of a biter? I can spot one of those right away. They even smell bad tempered."

He rubbed his knuckles up and down on Riley's forehead, and Riley squirmed with joy.

Soon as he stopped rubbing, I started. "I'll do this for you every day when we get home, Riley," I whispered. "Okay?"

"I think his owners had to move and couldn't take him," thepound man told us. "It wasn't that they didn't want him."

"I think we want him. Right, William?" Mom smiled at me.

The pound man looked at Mom. Grace gave me a nudge. We always think it's funny the way guys about drop dead over Mom.

"He likes her," Grace whispered to me.

"At least he didn't ask her if she's my sister," I whispered back.

While we were signing the papers and paying for all the things you have to pay for before you adopt a dog, we told everyone how Riley was going to love being with us, how we were going to take great care of him, and how we have a nice fenced yard that runs all the way round our house for him to play in. The yard's a field, really, since where we live is almost the country. Grace's house is a half mile or so down the road, toward Monk's Hill where we go to school, and there's only Mrs. Peachwood's little ranch in between.

"Sounds great," the pound man said.

"He wishes he was coming with us," Grace whispered.

Riley sat in the back of the station wagon with Grace and me. "You can tell he's really smart," Grace said. "Look at the way he sits up straight and looks out the window. Most dogs would be freaking all over the place."

I patted his head. I knew he was smart the minute I saw him." Actually I'd never thought about his smarts. I just loved his face, his velvety ears, the way he licked my face with slobbery kisses-the dog smell of him. I buried my nose in his neck and took a good sniff now.

Mom grinned at me in the rearview mirror. "I think it was love at first sight, right, William?"

I rolled my eyes. "Oh, Mom!"

We let Grace off at her driveway because she goes to her flute lesson on Tuesdays.

"That's Mrs. Peachwood's house," I told Riley, as we passed our next-door neighbor's. "We usually call her Peachie. Most of the time she's out in the front field there with her horse. His name is the Sultan of Kaboor. You'll like him a lot. Right now the two of them have gone to Peachie's sister's up in Washington. They go every July. And over there is our house. Do you like it, Riley? It's your house too now." And I felt this great rush of happiness, the kind I hadn't had since Grandpa died.

But when we turned into our long, dusty driveway, I couldn't help thinking how great it would have been if Grandpa had been in the house, waiting for us. Close by the porch was the big hole he and I'd dug for the fishpond-and the humongous pile of earth...

The Summer of Riley. Copyright © by Eve Bunting. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Meet the Author

Eve Bunting was born in Ireland and came to California with her husband and three children. She is one of the most acclaimed and versatile children's book authors, with more than two hundred novels and picture books to her credit. Among her honors are many state awards, the Kerlan Award, the Golden Kite Award, the Regina Medal, the Mystery Writers of America and the Western Writers of America awards, and a PEN International Special Achievement award for her contribution to children's literature. In 2002, Ms. Bunting was chosen to be Irish-American Woman of the Year by the Irish-American Heritage Committee of New York.

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