Immortal Max

176p. Holiday House. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780823430413. LC 2013023664.
Gr 4–6—Sammy is determined to have enough money to buy a purebred puppy before sixth grade, so he becomes a dog walker in a gated community. With the help of friends and family, Sammy learns that dogs and people can be special, regardless of pedigree or cultural heritage. Written in first person from Sammy's perspective, this realistic story might appeal to dog lovers. Unfortunately, the didactic descriptions will take readers out of the story, and the uneven vocabulary creates stilted dialogue that is a strange combination of uncommon words and outdated slang ("swell," "solid"). Although some kids will identify with Sammy's desire for things his family cannot afford, the message that "money isn't everything" is delivered heavy-handedly. The attempt to address cultural heritage is also well intentioned but clumsy. There is a multicultural cast; however, it is assembled with stereotypical rather than unique characters. They constantly talk about cultural heritage, regrettably perpetuating as many clichés as they try to break. The Asian American protagonists are intelligent, while the African American girl has a sister in a gang who taught her "street talk," such as "true dat." And the fat-but-perky white girl learns to be herself and lose weight. The adults also speak of their cultural heritage in a manner that is meant to educate but instead creates broad generalizations. Finally, two characters are described as doing an impromptu "Indian warrior dance." Below average writing and questionable depictions of cultures make this title one to miss.—Amy Seto Musser, Denver Public Library
More than anything, Sammy wants a purebred German shepherd to replace his scruffy mutt, Max. To earn money, he starts a dog walking service in the nearby gated community. His school nemesis, however, sabotages the business, and the pranks lead to tragedy. Clifton is heavy-handed in describing ethnic differences among Sammy's multicultural group of friends, but Sammy's determination makes him an interesting character.

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