Monday, February 24, 2014

Buddy by M.H. Herlong

This is the story of Tyrone Elijah Roberts, who everyone calls "Li'l T", and his dog Buddy. On the surface it seems as if this will be another endearing tale of a boy and his dog, which on its own would be a great story. But halfway through the book it becomes so much more than that.

The story begins when Li'l T's family hits a stray dog with their car. Li'l T has always wanted a dog but his family, which lives in a poor section of New Orleans, cannot afford one. Due to the accident, the dog must have one of its legs amputated and Li'l T knows immediately that this is the dog he's always wanted. His family is not so easily convinced, especially since the state of the dog's physical health is unclear and there is no money to feed and care for him.

Li'l T convinces his father that he will raise all the money to pay for Buddy's upkeep by mowing neighbor's lawns and the family agrees to take him home. Soon after, the foreshadowing of Hurricane Katrina begins. Even as news coverage of the impending storm starts, residents of New Orleans are either disbelieving of the danger or unable to find a place to go. Li'l T's family is one of the lucky ones. They leave to stay with an aunt in Mississippi but are forced to leave Buddy behind, locked in an upstairs bathroom, thinking that they will be returning in just a couple of days.

When Lil T's family realizes the scope of the storm and that their house has been destroyed they believe that Buddy has most likely perished. Li'l T is devastated, even when his parents surprise him with the gift of a brand new puppy for Christmas. When the reverend from their neighborhood sees a television special on pets rescued from Hurricane Katrina, he spots a three legged dog who looks just like Buddy, living in California. The entire church bands together to find Li'l T a way to get to California and bring his dog home. Things don't turn out exactly as Li'l T expects and he meets someone who might just need Buddy even more than he does.

This is an incredible, multi-faceted story with themes of family and community running through it while highlighting the struggle that so many families faced in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  Li'l T grows as a person as he struggles between his desire for a pet to love and doing what he knows is right for his family and community. These are not easy choices for him and he is often conflicted as to whether to do the right thing or satisfy his personal needs. In the end, with the help of his family, his good character triumphs. This is a great book for animal lovers and those interested in family stories and historical novels. 2012.

P. Sassoon

No comments: