Greetings From Planet Earth by Barbara Kerley (website)
Letters from Rapunzel by Sara Lewis Holmes (website and blog)
How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor (website and blog)
I checked out all three from the library to see whether or not I needed to own them. I read them all and I just purchased all three.
Dads are missing from all three stories: In Greetings, he hasn't returned home from Vietnam; in Letters, he's in the hospital with clinical depression; in Steal a Dog, he walked out on the family, leaving them homeless.
Great boy character in Greetings. Harry and Taran are the only other good boy characters in my summer reading (not on purpose). Theo is smart and curious and persistent.
Smart and curious and persistent also describe Cadence in Letters. Holmes captures/creates an authentic voice in the letters that Cadence writes. Georgina's voice in Steal a Dog is also spot on and crystal clear.
All three books are similar in the way the authors have masterfully woven the plot line. In Greetings, Kerley weaves together the best and worst of our nation in the late 1970's: space travel and the Vietnam War. In Letters, Holmes combines clinical depression, fairy tales, poetry, and the trials and tribulations of the gifted child. In Steal a Dog, Holmes gives poverty and homelessness a variety of different faces and voices which defy common sterotypes.
Out of all three, it was Steal a Dog that gripped my gut and made me talk out loud to the main character. ("What do you think you're doing?!?!?") I had thought there was a sense of doom and foreboding in Wringer, by Jerry Spinelli. Turns out, watching a character wait for his 10th birthday and the awfulness of becoming a wringer at the town pigeon shoot was nothing compared to watching Georgina blunder her way through the social and emotional chaos of living out of a car, the plan, the theft, the cover-up, and the realization that she has gotten herself in so deep that there is no graceful way out.
I'll keep Greetings and Letters for personal recommendations to 4th/5th graders. How to Steal a Dog will be one of my first read alouds.
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Mindy's interview of Barbara Kerley at propernoun
Kelly's interview of Barbara Kerley at Big A little a
7-Imp's interview of Barbara Kerley at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Little Willow's Poetry Friday from Letters from Rapunzel
7-Imp's review of Letters from Rapunzel
BooksForKidsBlog's review of Letters From Rapunzel
Midwestern Lodestar's thoughts on How to Steal a Dog
Brianne Reads and Reviews review of How to Steal a Dog
Barbara O'Connor's story of how a failed picture book turned into two novels: How to Steal a Dog and, coming in spring 2008, Greetings from Nowhere
EDITED TO ADD: Julius Lester's thoughts on Vietnam vs. Iraq, an interesting companion to Greetings from Planet Earth