Dirt

 
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What do you do when the world is just too much?  What do you do when you realize that no matter how many times you ask for the one thing you need the most, your words will never be enough to bring it back to you?

Eleven-year-old Yonder has an answer for that. She simply decided to stop using her words.  She doesn't talk any more.

When you give up your words, you give up the best tool you have to tell your story, to be seen and understood and to get what you truly need in your deepest of hearts.  Her choice renders her nearly invisible.  The teachers and administrators at her school see what they want to see and ignore what she needs them to notice.  They miss the bullying.  They miss the ridicule.  They miss the little heart that is so tender and so guarded.

Sometimes when the people fail you, an animal can find you.  That time comes for Yonder the day a Shetland pony wanders to her house and discovers her.  Yonder, whose mother has died, is pretty much on her own there as her father has come to the fork in the road of life and chosen to drink his way through it.

This fat character of a pony hears Yonder.  This pony knows how to listen for Yonder's voice, that part of her that is most true and most hopeful.  The two find understanding and friendship and even love as Yonder bestows a name on her new comrade, Dirt, and starts to care for him.

This is a story about a lost child and the power of a therapy animal, be it dog or pony...or whatever else works.   Occasional hints of slapstick humor pepper the struggle and the abandonment.  Good choice for children who enjoy watching a character with courage even in a world where the adults fail them time and time again.

214 pages  Ages 8-12  978-0545925853

Recommended by:  Barb Langridge, abookandahug.com

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