Book: For the Love of Petey by Mary Beth Denniscategories: Book, Dog Rescue, Adventure, Bullying, Friendship, Dog Heroes, Children's Novel
Mary Beth Dennisabout this book: Quite a few years ago, a friend of mine died suddenly in a car accident, and his wife and children in their despair all but completely forgot about his Dalmation, Petey, that they kept in the garage. When my husband and I found him, he was in pretty rough shape, dehydrated, hungry and weak. We took him away and nursed him back to health. The rest of the story is a sad one, whereby his wife insisted Petey be put down, and it broke my heart. From this though, came the idea to write my first complete middle grade novel "For the Love of Petey".
Bella, our 11 year old heroine is dealing with the bully who keeps bothering Robbie, her 6 year old next door neighbour. After a school detention for defending him one afternoon, she unexpectedly discovers Petey next to death in a locked garage, when taking a short cut home. No matter what the risk, she convinces her best friend to help her to help the dog however they can without getting caught. Angered by the neglect, they compassionately nurse him back to health, only to have him break loose and set out running around town. And all this goes on just as the boy she likes first asks her on a "date" to go roller skating. As she wrestles with the angst of the first love interest and how to get help from the adults without losing Petey, he himself just seems to be in the right place at the right time sensing people's needs, rescuing them from harm and becoming a beloved hero as he wanders. Petey develops a special attachment to little Robbie and helps Bella to unexpectedly see a different side to the school bully as she and her friends try to catch him and get him back home. The authorities soon get involved, and hearing Bella's story, help to discover that Petey's owner is far from neglectful. He's in a coma in hospital in a neighbouring town where he's been unidentified for weeks. With mixed feelings, Bella and Robbie reunite Petey with his owner, and all seems well, but while taking care of Petey until his owner comes home, he is struck by a car while once again rescuing someone else. Petey is near death, requiring expensive surgery, which his owner can't afford, but the community hears of his plight and donations stream in. Petey survives, his owner comes home and gives Petey to Robbie to love, and Bella and her friend receive an award for their quick thinking and compassionate care of an animal in need.
I've had many children read "For the Love of Petey" and they've reported tears and laughter, and a sense of connection to the characters. They loved the way the ends of each chapter had them wanting to read on. As a former elementary school teacher, I taught middle grades for many years, and know the novels they are attracted to. I remember those years growing up myself, and what it felt like to be free and confident in the world, finding your own abilities and independence. I've read hundreds and hundreds of middle school novels too, and love them! In reading this book, I hope to guide my readers to become more discerning and thoughtful about what they see, hear, think and feel each day, to think before they act, to consider the why's and the maybe's before jumping to conclusions, and to seek peaceful ways to work out difficulties. And most of all, I want to encourage their compassion and gentleness in being stewards of all creatures, both human and non-human on our earth.
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