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*Listen!* by Stephanie S. Tolan- tweens/young readers book review



by Stephanie S. Tolan
Grades 4-8 208 pages Harper Collins April 2006 Hardcover    

Charley isn't what she used to be. One of her problems is easy enough to fix; all it will take is time. Her leg was broken in a car accident with her best friend. There are others, though, that will not be so easily solved. She feels that she has lost her best friend, for one thing. For another, she really has lost her mother, a nature photographer who died in a plane crash in Brazil two years ago.

In the North Carolina summer, Charley must find healing, and she finds it in an unlikely place. While struggling to get back on her feet, she meets a wild dog whom she names Coyote. Coyote, while friendly with other dogs, is quite shy around people. He doesn't trust them; he's had bad experiences, she feels, in the past.

Charley believes that she and Coyote share a special connection. She's determined to get him out of the wild, to give him regular meals and a roof over his head. That won't be easy; at first, he won't even let her look at him straight. Charley, however, does not give up easily. She's determined to help Coyote. It just might be possible that, in the process of helping him, Charley is also helping herself.

While Listen! is a bit slow to start, it soon becomes quite a page-turner. It's a great animal story, but it might appeal to people who aren't big animal lovers as well. The human characters, especially Charley, are quite believable. The animal characters in the story seem just as real; while reading, I felt like I could turn around and see Coyote in the woods out my window at any time.

Charley's very real first-person narration tells an emotional and gripping story. However, as a big fan of Stephanie S. Tolan's previous novels, Surviving the Applewhites and Welcome to the Ark, I felt that Listen! doesn't quite live up to my high expectations. Certainly it is worth reading, and I wasn't too disappointed, but this latest novel does not quite meet the standards set by Tolan's earlier brilliant books. Still, readers are sure to enjoy Charley's story!

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  Jocelyn Pearce/2006 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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