After returning today from a week’s vacation on the Schoodic peninsula in Acadia National Park, I’m a day late for an “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?” post. However, I’m just in time to wish a Happy Book Birthday to Lynn Plourde for her new book, Maxi’s Secrets (Or, What You Can Learn From a Dog). I was so excited to read Lynn’s first middle grade novel after enjoying her many picture books over the years and Maxi’s Secrets did not disappoint!
It’s the story of a boy, Timminy Harris, whose family moves from the city of Portland to a more rural town in Maine, where his dad has taken a job as the new assistant principal at Timminy’s middle school. The fifth grader’s small stature and wisecracking, yet self-deprecating attitude make him a magnet for bullies, but when his parents try to ease the impact of the move on him by getting a new puppy, Timminy’s world gets turned upside down. You see, the Great Pyrenees pup, Maxi, is deaf. Timminy tries to teach Maxi everything he can to keep her safe, but in the end, it’s Maxi who teaches Timminy important lessons about life, friendship, and bravery.
Normally, I’d insert a “spoiler alert” here, but Lynn puts it out there for the reader in the first two sentences of the book- Maxi dies. And truthfully, I wasn’t sure how I would proceed after reading that, knowing what was ultimately going to happen, but the story pulled me in. I found myself connecting with the Maine elements sprinkled throughout the text, and even more importantly, I connected with the characters and how their own issues, dreams, and storylines were woven into Maxi’s tale. There’s Abby, the Harris’ blind neighbor who is too young for a guide dog, but yearns for more independence, Rory, another neighbor, a.k.a, The Big Jerk, who is seemingly Timminy’s worst nightmare of a bully, and a cadre of other Maine middle schoolers who want to be liked and accepted- just like any tween.
Lynn’s experience in the school setting as an educator herself, along with the tons of encounters she has with kids during her author visits have given her the perfect voice to write this story. I laughed at the middle school humor and yes, cried when Maxi passed. This book transported me back to my own middle school days, and carried me back through times when I’ve had to say goodbye to beloved family pets. But perhaps it is the way Lynn confronts these issues head-on that I most appreciate. Kids want truth and honesty from life and books and Maxi’s Secrets offers just that.
I’ll be heading to one of Lynn’s launch signings tomorrow afternoon at Books ‘n Things in Norway. I hope to see you there! For more information on where you can find all things Maxi, as well as information on Lynn’s newest upcoming picture book, Bella’s Fall Coat, check out her website at www.lynnplourde.com . You can also find her author page on Facebook.
Happy Book Birthday, Maxi!