Rating: 5 stars
“Buddy” by M. H. Herlong is a book about a boy and his dog. It’s a book about Katrina (the hurricane), love, and sacrifice. It’s a wonderful book.
Li’l Tee lives in New Orleans with his mother, father, little sister and baby brother in his grandfather’s house. They work hard and go to church every Sunday, and the church plays an important part in the book.
On the way to church one Sunday, they hit a stray dog with their car. Li’l Tee has wanted a dog since he was born, and he insists they take the dog to church. The pastor pleads for the dog, and the congregation responds. The dog, Buddy, goes to the vet and has his leg amputated.
Li’l Tee’s family takes him home to recuperate. Like many southern families, they keep the dog outside. Buddy lives in a shed, and Li’l Tee visits him often.
Over the next four months, Li’l Tee grows very attached to Buddy. When Katrina threatens, his family must leave town, and there is no room in the small car for Buddy. Thinking they will only be gone for two days, they put Buddy in an upstairs bathroom with a big bag of food and a bathtub full of water.
Because of the devastation, Li’l Tee and his family cannot return to New Orleans. No one is allowed in the city at all. Months go by, and they try to return to the house but are stymied because there is too much water in the area around their house to even get close.
The next time they try to visit, they manage to see the house. They see the large red X that means the house was searched, and they see the word “dog” written to indicate that a dog was rescued from the house.
Li’l Tee is relieved that his dog is alive but very despondent that he doesn’t know where. Things change when someone from church sees Buddy on TV. After his rescue, he had been taken to California and eventually adopted by a family there.
Li’l Tee’s efforts to get Buddy back, and the growing-up process that is a huge part of this story, are touching in the extreme. The story is well-written — the dialogue perfect, the characterizations perfect, the pathos perfect.
It is a book to read only when there is a tissue box nearby. And don’t start without it because once begun, this is a difficult book to put down.
This book would be a perfect read-aloud for a fifth or sixth grade classroom except for the fact that it would be difficult to read some of it without shedding a tear. Children will love this book — guaranteed. Adults will love this book — also, guaranteed.
Please note: this review is based on the advance reader’s edition provided by the publisher, Viking/ Penguin Young Readers Group, for review purposes.