Stay, a heart-tugging dog story. also introduces young readers (in a limited way) to the plight of the homeless.
Stay by Bobbie Pyron, Katherine Tegan/Harper Collins, 2019, 296 pages
Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 10-12
Recommended for: ages 10-14
A series of misfortunes has brought Piper and her family to the big city, somewhere out west. The bus tickets took the last of their funds, so until Daddy can find work they’ll have to make do with shelters and soup kitchens. Piper’s family isn’t as hard up as the people who live in the nearby park, especially one older lady who doesn’t seem to know where she is half the time. Her name is Jewel, and like many of her fellow park residents, she is devoted to her pet, a little schnauzer mix named Baby. Piper wonders if Baby wouldn’t be better off with a settled home and a family, especially with winter coming on. But Jewel’s friend Ree sets her straight: “When [our animals] see us they don’t see some raggedly old guy pushing a shopping cart, or an ex-drug addict, or some faceless old woman. They see us.” And may be the only creatures who do.
But that winter is here, and when Jewel becomes dangerously sick one snowy night, her friends call 911. An ambulance takes Jewel to the nearest charity hospital. Baby needs help to be reunited with his dearest friend, and Piper is desperate to help him. But how?
This sweet story has many themes: the bond between human and pets, the plight of the homeless, the need to take initiative, and the importance of family and community bonds. The presentation of the homeless here is a bit sanitized (e.g., there aren’t that many ex-drug addicts on the streets today), but appropriate for a middle-grade audience. Ree reminds us that we shouldn’t avert our eyes, but see the homeless as human beings. Piper’s mother and father present positive parenting models, though tempers occasionally snap in a realistic response to circumstances. Kids taking concrete action and grownups pitching in to help add up to a happy ending. Everybody loves a good dog story!
- The family attended church in their former home, and church is mentioned favorably. Jewel carries a Bible with her and reads it frequently.
- There’s one passing reference to a male shelter resident “and his husband.”
Overall rating: 4 (out of 5)
- Worldview/moral value: 3.75
- Artistic/literary value: 4.25