Reviews for Hound Dog True

Booklist Reviews 2011 September #1
Painfully shy, Mattie quails at starting a new school next week, though it might be better with Uncle Potluck as school custodian. He lets Mattie help, and she hopes to prove herself indispensable and become a Custodial Apprentice. She meticulously writes down all she learns from Uncle Potluck in a notebook labeled "Custodial Wisdom." But will Uncle Potluck's tips and "hound dog true" stories really help her navigate the terrors of friendship? The story brims with personality and fully realized characters, especially Uncle Potluck, whose expansive nature and vocabulary are quirky but believable. Written in third person from Mattie's perspective, sentence fragments sprinkled throughout create a jaunty cadence, and gentle humor bubbles through Mattie's observations, as when she notes that one teacher wears flip-flops. "Mattie is glad she will not be in his class. Seems wrong to know your teacher has hair on his toes." Internal drama, compelling characters, and Mattie's strong voice propel the story of learning to do "a small brave thing." Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Spring
Shy Mattie and her mama come to live with Uncle Potluck, the custodian of the school where, in one week, Mattie will enter fifth grade. Mattie helps Uncle Potluck get the school ready and takes a sense of security from keeping her Custodial Wisdom notebook; in doing so, she begins to find her voice. Her slow and painful self-examination is honest and true. Copyright 2012 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2011 #5
As Mattie's peripatetic mother always says, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." And "going" is what the two of them are always doing, moving from job to job, house to house, and school to school. But Mattie's not as tough as Mama; she's shy, afraid to open up to others, and keeps it to herself when a classmate hu iliates her after reading a story Mattie wrote that "came from someplace inside of her." Her internal voice makes Mattie practice just the right thing to say in front of others, but it refuses to appear on cue, and she winds up mute or twisting her words. As the book opens, Mattie and Mama have come to live with Uncle Potluck, the custodian of the school where, in one week, Mattie will enter the fifth grade. Mattie develops a sense of responsibility helping Uncle Potluck get the school ready and finds a sense of security in keeping her Custodial Wisdom notebook, writing down the tricks of the trade; finally, Mattie has the courage to write another story as she begins to find her voice. Although there's a strong support system surrounding Mattie, she alone can discover what matters in life. Her slow and painful self-examination is honest; her revelations are "hound dog true." betty carter Copyright 2011 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2011 August #2

With a little help from a caring adult, a child crippled by shyness begins to bloom.

Soon-to-be fifth grader Mattie is painfully shy, making the frequent moves her mother has initiated especially difficult. In the last days of summer, after she and her mother move in with her Uncle Potluck, the elementary-school custodian, he quickly recognizes both her talent and her difficulties and begins bringing her to work with him, where she records everything he does in her journal (since she's a writer). She hopes that if she learns enough custodial skills, she can become his junior apprentice during lunch and recess and so avoid the most challenging times of the school day. Meanwhile, she is studiously steering clear of Quincy, a slightly older girl visiting next door; in trying to avoid the social minefield of friendship, she fails to recognize that Quincy is a kindred spirit. As amiable Potluck gently guides her, and her jittery but loving mother comes to better understand her, Mattie believably begins to turn from her inwardly focused timidity to an eye-opening awareness of the complexity of others' emotional landscapes. Combining Mattie's poignant writing and interior monologue, exquisite character development and a slow, deliberate pace, Urban spins a story that rings true.

This outstanding, emotionally resonant effort will appeal to middle-grade readers. (Fiction. 8-12)

Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 July #4

Urban (A Crooked Kind of Perfect) traces a highly self-conscious child's cautious emergence from her shell in this tender novel about new beginnings and "small brave" acts. Fifth grader Mattie Breen doesn't share her mother's eagerness to pick up stakes whenever "the going gets tough." Mattie hates starting over at unfamiliar schools, but when her mother announces they will be living with Uncle Potluck, Mattie feels hopeful, for once. Uncle Potluck tells funny, larger-than-life stories--the kind of stories Mattie likes to write, but is embarrassed to share with others. Mattie hopes that Uncle Potluck will make her his "custodial apprentice" at the school where he works (and which she'll attend) and that this time she'll finally find a "true, tell-your-secrets-to" friend. Urban's understated, borderline naïf narrative gives voice to Mattie's many uncertainties ("Always Mattie has been shy. Always school had made her feel skittish and small") while expressing the quiet yet significant moments in her day-to-day life. Mattie's growing trust of others and her attempts to be "bold and friendly" lead to gratifying rewards for Mattie and poignant moments for readers. Ages 9-12. (Sept.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2011 October

Gr 4-6--Mattie Breen is a self-conscious and sensitive child about to begin fifth grade in her fifth school. This time, she and her mother are back in her mother's girlhood home with Uncle Potluck, the "Director of Custodial Arts" at the school Mattie is slated to attend. She dreads the prospect of recesses and lunch times--any times where she might find herself in unpredictable social situations--so she devises a plan to become her uncle's invaluable assistant. As he prepares the school during the last week of summer, Mattie accompanies him and records "Custodial Wisdom" in a silver notebook. She hopes to impress him so that he will want her help during the school day. Uncle Potluck is an intelligent, positive character, and he adds an extra heap of credibility to his many stories by referring to them as "hound dog true." He is a kind and sensitive example for his reclusive niece--a storyteller, like her. Quinn, who is visiting next door, and is as much an artist as Mattie is a writer, also makes a start in bringing the timid girl out of her shell. The most action readers will find in this story is Uncle Potluck tripping over a vacuum cleaner cord, but the characters are well limned, and Mattie's perceptions and observations add a tender dimension. There are many books that offer adventure and twists and unusual story lines. Most of them do not offer young readers such fine writing and real characters. That is hook enough.--Corrina Austin, Locke's Public School, St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada

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