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What the Dog Said

What the Dog Said

4.7 21
by Randi Reisfeld, H. B. Gilmour

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Ever since her police officer father was killed a few months ago, Grace Abernathy hasn't wanted to do much of anything. She's pulled away from her friends, her grades are plummeting . . . it's a problem. The last thing Grace wants is to be dragged into her older sister Regan's plan to train a shelter dog as a service dog. But Grace has no idea how involved she'll


Ever since her police officer father was killed a few months ago, Grace Abernathy hasn't wanted to do much of anything. She's pulled away from her friends, her grades are plummeting . . . it's a problem. The last thing Grace wants is to be dragged into her older sister Regan's plan to train a shelter dog as a service dog. But Grace has no idea how involved she'll get-especially when a mangy mutt named Rex starts talking to her. Has Grace gone off the deep end? Or might this dog be something really special-an angel? A spirit? Either way, he is exactly the therapy that Grace needs.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This combination grief novel, mystery, and talking dog story grew out of an idea frequent collaborators Reisfeld and Gilmour (the Twitches series) were developing before Gilmour’s death in 2009. The tale bridges the real and the fanciful as 13-year-old Grace tries to make sense of the shooting death of her detective father. Grace is also grappling with guilt that her father was caught in the crossfire because he left work early to attend her softball tryouts. When her self-absorbed older sister offers to train Rex, a rambunctious shelter puppy, as a service dog, Grace ends up stepping in to do the work. She’s amazed and alarmed when Rex talks to her (“Dogs don’t talk. Only crazy people think they do”), but his wise, often funny comments help her heal and provide a reassuring echo of her father’s voice. Grace’s search for the truth about the shooting gives the novel an edge; her discovery assuages her guilt and brings her a bittersweet peace. Even with a talking dog, Reisfeld’s novel is moored by believable characters, dialogue, and emotions. Ages 10–14. (Feb.)
VOYA - Lauri J. Vaughan
In the wake of her father's murder, Grace Abernathy has shut herself away from the world. Only when her older sister Regan contrives to adopt a mutt to train as a service dog—primarily to impress college admission personnel—does a crack appear in Grace's impenetrable wall. Training of the un-cute but endearing Rex falls to Grace, who attends classes three times a week to prepare him for life with a disabled partner. Even Grace grudgingly recognizes the venture could be a step in the right direction for her. Her grades are spiraling, she has managed to alienate her closest friends, and unless she can pull herself out of a nosedive, eighth grade will happen all over again next year. All seems well until JJ, a juvenile delinquent known to have been involved in her father's unsolved murder, turns up at class with Otis, another canine service candidate. Oh, and Rex can talk—to Grace at least. But in her world—which is all about making sense of the senseless—a talking dog might just be further evidence that Grace is losing her grip. Reisfeld's tale, if predictable, works. Grace's anger is palpable—as are her intelligence, frustration, and confusion. Rex, not surprisingly, becomes the vehicle through which Grace learns that troubled kids do not have a market on sin or guilt. The same is true for fear and bravery. Reisfeld has endowed all characters, including Rex, with authentic and distinctive voices. She has also managed to infuse the tale with the right amount of humorous moments without detracting from her larger theme. Greater detail about canine service dogs would have attracted a much broader readership, as would a more fully drawn JJ. Still, enough mystery, ethics, and solid plot make this an excellent book club choice for older elementary or junior high students. Reviewer: Lauri J. Vaughan
Children's Literature - Suzanna E. Henshon
Gracie's life is heading downhill. Her grades are sinking faster than the Titanic, and she knows her life will never be the same again. Then her older sister, Regan, decides to adopt a rescue dog; Rex quickly becomes Gracie's responsibility. To Grace's surprise, Rex starts talking to her; is it even possible for a dog to speak? Rex brightens the entire family's lives with his woofing, wit, and wisdom; he fills the gap that was created with the death of Grace's father a year earlier. But Grace still blames herself for her father's death. After all, he was on his way to see Grace's softball game nearly a year ago when he was shot to death. Grace's grades finally begin to improve and for the first time in months she is looking forward to seeing her friends and spending time with them. Meanwhile, Rex's training to be a service dog is going well; he is quickly becoming accomplished and capable of helping a disabled person. Grace's heart sinks when she realizes that Rex is nearly through with his training. How can she give up the dog she has come to love? Young readers will enjoy this story; Rex is guaranteed to charm dog lovers with his wit, wisdom, and memorable comments. Reviewer: Suzanna E. Henshon, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—Grace is still reeling from her dad's death. A police officer who worked with troubled youth, he was killed in a drive-by and the shooter has never been caught. Because she has become increasingly withdrawn, Grace is roped into her older sister's plot to train a service dog, and that's when she meets Rex, a shelter dog that talks to her. She's pretty sure she's not crazy, but before long she finds herself taking advice from the mutt, which helps her reconnect with friends and grow closer to her sister. In the dog-training classes, she meets JJ, who admits to the police that he was in the car when Officer Abernathy was killed, but he won't tell who actually fired the shot for fear of his own life. In the end, Grace is able to convince JJ to talk, but one has to wonder about his safety as he has already been threatened by the gang he has fallen in with. Animal lovers will relish the details about training service dogs, readers will follow Grace's determination to have her father's killer brought to justice, and all will find her hard-won healing inspiring.—Laurie Slagenwhite Walters, Peachtree Montessori International, Ann Arbor, MI
Kirkus Reviews
A talking service-dog–in-training may relieve 13-year-old Grace's crushing grief after her father's death. It's a project Grace's older sister Regan has begun merely to enhance her college applications. After choosing a dog from the animal shelter, she enrolls it in service-dog training. Grace, forced to help, naturally selects the rangy mutt, Rex, that shouts, "Pick me!" in a voice only she can hear. Rex insinuates himself into her life, an aimless existence since her father, a police officer, was murdered in an unsolved shooting six months earlier. Grace has dropped out of her own life, failing school and shutting out her friends. When a young gang follower Grace suspects was involved in the shooting joins the dog training class, she takes the opportunity to investigate and finds out--quite a bit too easily--who killed her father. Reisfeld resorts to telling rather than showing too often: "I needed to uncoil the knot of loss inside me, to unlock the dark cell I'd been living in since Dad died," for example, resulting in a voice that never rings quite true. Other characters, too, seem trite, with the best voice being that of the enthusiastically inquisitive dog, leaving this an imaginative but not fully realized concept. This dog tale will, nonetheless, appeal to animal lovers, who may "hear" their pets' voices just as clearly. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.36(w) x 8.54(h) x 0.92(d)
690L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Meet the Author

Randi Reisfeld and H. B. Gilmour, co-authors of T*Witches series, Oh Baby!, and Making Waves, began working on What the Dog Said several months before the untimely passing of H. B. In her honor, Randi proudly completes this novel about coping with loss and the angels who move us forward without letting us forget.

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What the Dog Said 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
PaulineMA More than 1 year ago
I read just about every dog book (fiction)I find....this one escaped me for a year?? I don't know how but it was worth the wait! What a great story. The interactions of Grace and Rex was clearly played out and then the purpose of the story comes clear at the end. And yes, I cried. A beautiful tribute to the folks who train service dogs AND those shelter pups waiting to find their forever home. I just really loved this story!!! 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It made me laugh, cry, and it definitly "kept me on my toes" it was great, i borrowed it but it would be worth the money
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is fabulouiw! It is very good at teaching the reader that life isnt perfect and when it is messed up you have to be creative and find a way to make it better. In this story grace the main character uses getting a shelter dog that talks to her to get her to stop grieving over her dads death. This i recomended for all ages!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading this book!! It is super funny at some parts and suspensful at others. It's about a girl who lost her dad, and feels that it's her fault. Read about how a slightly dumb dog helps her live again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is: Wow. This is a really great book. I read it in two days. That is nor a brag, I know there are a lot faster readers out there, but I'm implying it was good. Grace Abernathy's dad died, and to help her, grace' s mom lets her get a puppy to train as a guide dog. Dog talks. Not the usual omg my animal is talking to me book. Bad stuff to take note of: no blood and guts but all the usual gangster stuff, minor bullying, achohal mentioned very briefly. Not to scare you away, this is a really really good book. Nothing made me feel sick like I did when I read the sentance from the hunger games about forcing kids to kill eachother. Actually, nothing even close. I am 11 and I don't watch pg 13 movies, so you can decide whether you should read it by that. What the dog said is an awesome book. - a reader. A reccomendation: the princess curse by merrie haskell. Adaptation of fairytales the twelve dancing princesses and beauty and the beast.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is awesome!i am 11 and i love it so much i hope the person who wrote this book will have written more books!
Anonymous 8 months ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love the book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was actually the first book that ever made me cry....... other than Old Yeller, which is another book about a dog....Anyway, i could totally relate with gracie in many ways, and rex—the dog— was the comedy relief tis book needed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
That is so sad and touching. i am sorry to hear about your dad. I think animals do understand and they do care about their owner(s) people just don't give them credit. And if you have a problem with that than you can talk to me!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is all abote dogs and i love dogs i have a dog right now 450 i kove him
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a dog lover but I don't think you have to be to enjoy this story.  I cried when I read it and almost cried when I finished it.  It is one of those books you want to go on and on. Like Gracie in the story I had lost my dad.  I was so broken hearted.  When I returned home from his funeral, I found my solace in my little cocker spaniel.  I often held  him and cried into his soft fur as he sat with me.  He would look up with those shoe-button eyes as if he said "I understand.".  As the story says, dogs are truly angels with tails.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books i have ever read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is very good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Rude and tells u to never come back