“Strays Like Us” by Cecilia Galante is an often heart-wrenching story of a child and a dog, both in need. Fred, short for Winifred, lived with her mother who had an addiction problem. Although her mother managed to keep a job at a drug store, her behavior and financial problems meant Fred’s life was never predictable. Her mother constantly told Fred how much she needed Fred, and how she relied on Fred.
When her mother gets arrested for stealing drugs, Fred is placed in a foster home with Margery. Margery has never fostered before, and her looks and her lifestyle are different. She is a large, mannish woman who welds in her spare time. She drives a Harley. But Margery is kind, and her life was not always easy, so she ends up being the perfect foster mom for Fred.
But Fred is really disturbed by the dog chained up in the backyard of the neighbor. The owner is a mean old man who barely gives the dog enough to eat to survive, kicks the dog, and threatens Fred when she tries to feed the dog. The dog howls all day, and Fred can’t bear to do nothing.
Galante really creates a likable character in Fred. She’s certainly not perfect, and she (realistically) does things to mess up her relationship with Margery and the one friend she’s made at school. Readers will root for Fred, worry about the dog, and want happy endings for all. Some might be angry that Galante does not really show us the happy-ever-after. But as one children’s author told me during an interview, life is like that. We don’t know what will happen in the future. So leaving the ending hanging is just like real life.
Note to children: Please have a responsible adult help you rescue a chained dog. Do not try this on your own!
Please note this review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Scholastic Press, the publisher, for review purposes.