A talking dog with a knack for changing people's lives helps fourth grader Marcella deal with her tendency to tell wild stories to get attention
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Fourth-grader Marcella lies a lot, a habit that has left her with few friends except retarded Benny Boo and old Judge Scott, a gold-hearted curmudgeon who foresees (correctly) her own death in two weeks. Like Harriet the Spy's, Marcella's problems stem from her parent's absorption in their own pursuits; on a typical evening, they're home just long enough to agree to leave Marcella while they both go back to work. Marcella secretly takes in a stray dog and names him Figment, in honor of her imaginative stories; for much of the book it's not clear whether the dog and/or his talking are real or imaginary. Finally, with Figment's help, Marcella gets her parents' attention and--in a sweetly ironic twist--tells a last lie in order to allow a sickly boy who's formed an attachment to Figment to keep him. The best feature of this rather disjointed first novel is the author's lively, engaging voice. Marcella is likable, generous at heart, and her new friendship with a classmate who's determined to give her a chance nicely reinforces the theme of locating one's own integrity in a complicated world. Focusing on her sprightly delivery, Hawkins leaves some disconcerting stray ends--the precisely predicted death seems like a pointless contrivance, as does the confusion about Figment's real nature. Still, an interesting debut. (Fiction. 8-11) -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From School Library Journal:
Grade 3-5-- Marcella Starbuckle tells lies to get attention until a talking dog comes into her life, but that's only one of the story lines introduced in this cluttered book. Friendship themes are explored via a group of too-bad-to-be-true fourth-grade girls who delight in taunting Marcella; a peppery retired judge named Willa Scott, who swears she is dying; and a sweet, mentally retarded man, Benny Slocum. A concern for dogs unifies the book and unites the characters. Marcella has Figment (he talks, or at least she believes he does). The four fourth graders are looking for a missing dog advertised rather mysteriously in the paper so they can collect a reward, and they think Marcella has him. Benny loves dogs, but is still remorseful over the disappearance of his brother's dog 30 years earlier, which he believes he caused. And Willa, who helped spirit away a dog long ago, wants to make peace with its former owner. There are many--too many--worthy themes in this book, and Marcella's realization that she doesn't have to lie to get attention is lost because of all the other things that are going on. --Carolyn Jenks, formerly at Oyster River Elementary School, Durham, NH
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Book Description Houghton Mifflin, 1991. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110395570328
Book Description Houghton Mifflin, 1991. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0395570328