Rascal is a beagle from the bayou, born on a small Cajun farm and given his very own human, Meely, to love. Meely has a responsible, steady manner that is often at odds with his impulsive and instinctive puppy, but a rare moment of recklessness puts Meely in great danger and requires Rascal to grow up fast in order to save his boy. Although there is a large supporting cast, the relationship between Rascal and Meely is the centerpiece of this leisurely novel. Rascal narrates, which brings some inherent limitations, as he lacks a human’s insights, and his Cajun dialect initially feels awkward before it settles into a lyrical cadence that enhances the feel of the story (a glossary is helpfully provided). Readers will want to ponder the recurring theme of bravery versus foolishness as they follow Rascal and Meely through their adventures. Slade’s spot illustrations enhance the chapters and are particularly successful in portraits of Rascal. Animal-story fans will be satisfied. Grades 5-8. --Kara Dean
About the Author
KEN WELLS grew up on the banks of Bayou Black, in south Louisiana’s Cajun country, on a farm where he and his five brothers romped with a dozen or so mostly adopted dogs, including a spectacular beagle named Tootie and a goodly number of barn cats. For a while, his family even kept a pet monkey.
Wells, a career journalist, is the author of six previous books, including Meely LaBauve,
a coming-of-age story that was an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults. Wells lives in New York City with his wife, Lisa Newmark. They have two grown daughters, Sara and Rebecca.