First, like the main character, Mattie, one of my daughters had a very difficult time talking to others when she was young - I saw firsthand how painful her shyness could be. Every time Mattie moved, she would need to get up in front of her new teacher and new classmates and share something interesting about herself. The time, energy, and agonizing that went into this for her was painful to read. She protected herself with her writing, her imagination, and her solitude. When a new character, Quincy, tried to break past the wall Mattie had built around herself, Mattie questioned her motives and tried to insulate herself from having too much contact with her.
Second, Uncle Potluck, Mattie's uncle, a school custodian, reminded me so much of a custodian from my school who just passed away. They were both articulate, had many rich life experiences, they cared for others, and they always wanted to make children feel good about themselves. Uncle Potluck loved Mattie unconditionally and saw her for exactly who she was. What a gift for Mattie. I loved the part when the reader finds out how Potluck got his name, but I do think that if I was sharing this with students, I would need to fill in some background knowledge about what a potluck actually is.
The language that is used in this book is terrific, but some of my favorite phrases come from Uncle Potluck:
- "traitorous knee,
- gave its service in the illumination of youth,
- director of custodial arts,
- recording our custodial endeavors for posterity,
Another part of Hound Dog True that I loved was how Mattie learned to be brave about big things, you have to do many small things that are brave as well. Being brave is like being in training -- thanks to Mattie's school principal for that analogy.
And finally, how perfect that the reader sees the power of writing to get a character past difficult times. That's a huge message!
Hound Dog True is a wonderful book with incredible characters and lovely language. Definitely another favorite for me in 2011.