By the author of Shabanu, a Newbery Honor Book
The summer after fourth grade, a lonely girl wants just one thing: a dog. It's all she can think of. She tries everything to convince her parents to let her have one, but nothing works. She is sure that she will spend another whole summer alone – dogless and friendless – with no one to share her adventures in the woods and waterways of northeastern Pennsylvania. Just when things look bleakest, a dog appears on the side of the road and needs rescuing. He looks exactly like the dog she's been dreaming of. Together they spend long, golden days fishing, swimming, and exploring the woods. Jeff works his magic on everyone in the house, but it's soon evident that he has a nose for trouble, like digging up the neighbor's rhubarb patch and overturning a pail of green paint. Suzanne’s father rapidly loses patience. "One more incident," he warns, "and that dog is going to the farm."
This heartwarming story, taken from the author's childhood, will remind readers of all ages what it’s like to wish for something so hard – and to love something so completely – it makes your heart ache.
About the Author
Suzanne Fisher Staples is also the author of many acclaimed books for young readers, including Shiva’s Fire and Dangerous Skies, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. She lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Read an Excerpt
The Green Dog
A Mostly True Story
By Suzanne Fisher Staples Frances Foster Books
Copyright © 2003 Suzanne Fisher Staples
All right reserved.
Girl Needs Dog
It's the first day of summer - the best day of the year. I awake before the sun, the house still sleeping around me. I sit up and stretch in the chilly semidarkness. My sister lies on the sagging mattress of an iron bed across the room, her plump arms and legs sprawled on top of the covers. I'm freezing - she's too hot. Karen and I couldn't be more different if we tried.
I turn back the flannel sheet and wool blanket in slow motion to keep the springs on my old brass bed from squawking. Karen can sleep until noon if you let her, and she can be as grouchy as a bear with a thorn in its foot if you wake her before she's ready.
I wiggle into last year's bathing suit, which is now too short. Little threads of elastic stick out where the seat has worn thin. Technically, it's still too cold for swimming, but it seems a shame not to celebrate the first day after fourth grade with a swim if it warms up just a little. At the end of each school year we wait for my mother to pronounce the lake warm enough for swimming. She usually does it the first day of vacation, no matter how cold the water is. Today will be the day.
I pull a pair of shorts and a gray hooded sweatshirt over my bathing suit andslip out into the upstairs hall.
My father's snores rattle through the doorway of the big bedroom at the top of the stairs, and I pause outside before going down. The wooden steps groan softly under my feet, and the house seems to shift in its sleep. I creep through the living room, dining room, and kitchen and unlatch the screen door to the back porch. In the corner of the garage my fishing rod, tackle box, net, and bucket stand exactly where I left them last fall, which seems forever ago.
I run down the path to the lake, the pail banging against my bare leg. A scrim of blue mist drifts up from the water to join small clouds that hover low over the skyline. The birds twitter and chirp in the tall oak and maple trees that line the path to the dock.
I tie a silver spinner onto the leader at the end of my line. A great blue heron coasts across the water to land in the pickerelweed at the edge of the lake. The sun casts a golden glow over the hills on the opposite shoreline, and it's all reflected in the still, cold water.
I'd rather fish with bait, but since yesterday was the last day of school I haven't had time to hunt for worms or to look for the lone, pale crayfish that hides under the rowboat.
My first cast kerplunks into the lake, and there is a sharp jolt as a fish hits the lure. Rings spool out from flashes of yellow tail and bony lips, and my heart lifts sharply to see such light and heat in such cold water. The fish fights hard, diving and leaping as I reel him in. When I finally get him on the dock, his fins glow orange like the sunrise and his tail flicks icy water into my face as I unhook him. I fill the pail from the lake, put the fish in, and set it on the dock beside me. The fish lashes around for a minute and then lies still, his fins feathering the little water ferns beneath him.
The next two casts yield two more perch. But then the fish stop going for the lure. I watch the silver beads and little spoon swivel silently through the clear green water a couple of dozen times more before I set the rod aside and hang my bare legs over the edge of the dock.
I imagine myself spending most mornings this summer with my feet dangling off the dock, my dog stretched out beside me on the rough planks. He is black-and-tan, with long silky fur, a big pink tongue, and chocolate brown eyes. His name is Jeff. He rests his chin between his front paws and looks up at me, wagging his fluffy tail.
I don't actually have this dog yet, but I know exactly what he looks like and I've been thinking about how to get him.
I need a dog because I don't have any real friends. Occasionally my mother arranges for her friend Mrs. Mattise (also known as Aunt Dorothy) to bring her daughter, Carol, over to play with me. Carol is talented. She loves to sing and act, to perform for an audience. She doesn't like to fish.
Or my mother tells Mrs. Van Wert I'll stop by to play mumblety-peg with her son, Dale. Dale has cerebral palsy, and he can't go for walks in the woods. I like Dale, but I'm not crazy about playing mumblety-peg, which involves throwing a knife so its point sticks in the ground, and after a while I look for excuses to leave.
Sometimes Patty Moore comes when her mother visits my mother. She and Karen like to play with dolls, and I lose interest, although I love Patty. "I don't want you to grow up without the gift of friendship," my mother says when I complain about her arranging for people to be my playmates. She and my father worry that I prefer to be alone. But the truth isn't so simple.
Karen and my older brother, Bobby, have friends from school who live near us. But none of my classmates live anywhere near where our house sits, on the south end of Chapman Lake in the wooded, rolling hills of northeastern Pennsylvania. Secretly I long for a friend. When I was younger I invented a playmate, Judy, whom I adored. She was my constant companion. Judy was not tall and gawky like me. I have what Bobby calls bird legs, and I wear my stick-straight hair caught back at the sides in barrettes. Judy was petite and dimpled, with cascades of blond curls. She was sweet and cuddly, and like me she loved secrets. I told her everything.
Excerpted from The Green Dog by Suzanne Fisher Staples Copyright © 2003 by Suzanne Fisher Staples. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
It's the first day of summer-the best day of the year. I awake before the sun, the house still sleeping around me. I sit up and stretch in the chilly semidarkness. My sister lies on the sagging mattress of an iron bed across the room, her plump arms and legs sprawled on top of the covers. I'm freezing-she's too hot. Karen and I couldn't be more different if we tried. -The Green Dog by Suzanne Fisher Staples This is a creative "mostly true" story, based on a point in Suzanne's life. This story is about a girl who dreams about the perfect dog, which she can't have. No matter what anyone says to her, Suzanne (the girl) can't stop thinking about Jeff. (The dog she wants.) Eventually, a black and white dog appears on Suzanne's family's porch one day. Suzanne and her sister Karen take the dog in with the name Jeff, and Suzanne is as happy as can be. But, then her family learns (the hard way), that Jeff is full of ideas for getting into trouble. After trouble after trouble after trouble, Suzanne's dad warns everyone that the dog will go to the farm if he doesn't behave. This dog brings the Staples family together, as well as this book will bring your family together! An immediate 5-star family novel!