Do not let a mop sit overnight in water. Fix things before they get too big for fixing. Custodial wisdom: Mattie Breen writes it all down. She has just one week to convince Uncle Potluck to take her on as his custodial apprentice at Mitchell P. Anderson Elementary School. One week until school starts and she has to be the new girl again. But if she can be Uncle Potluck’s apprentice, she'll have important work to do during lunch and recess. Work that will keep her safely away from the other fifth-graders. But when her custodial wisdom goes all wrong, Mattie's plan comes crashing down. And only then does she begin to see how one small, brave act can lead to a friend who is hound dog true. (goodreads summary)
Mattie's mom says "when the going gets tough, the tough gets going". Once again, Mattie will be moving and attending a new school. The thought of starting over in a new classroom, lunchtime, recess and having to make friends is not easy for her. The only good thing is that she and her mom will be living with her Uncle Potluck. The week before school opens, she helps her Uncle who is the school custodian prepare for the new year. Mattie carries a notebook, taking every important note she can about the job in the hopes he will allow her to become his Custodial Apprentice. If she has busy work to do, then she just may be able to escape the lunch and recess times. Meanwhile, a neighbor's niece is visiting and Mattie is not quite sure what to make of a new friendship situation either. Mattie is a gifted writer but a bad incident at her former school holds her back from expression and the comfort of a possible new friendship. She does not want to let her guard down and not yet ready to trust someone new in her life just yet.
This was such a wonderful middle grade story about a 5th grade girl who is extremely shy. The author has once again captured the realities of being a child through her writing. I loved her debut book A Crooked Kind of Perfect for that reason and this one displays the same gentle and heartwarming feeling. Mattie could represent many children that have trouble opening up to others or being uncomfortable in new situations. A betrayal by a classmate from her old school also contributes to Mattie's fears of getting close to others again and I liked that her feelings about the situation were expressed. There are many memorable characters in this story other than just Mattie. For example, Uncle Potluck was unique and humorous and told the best stories declaring them "hound dog true". When Quincy came into Mattie's life, she could tell she was easy going and free which gave her more than a few worries. Mattie found it difficult to connect mainly because of her social awkwardness and fears. Eventually, she becomes an important role in helping Mattie find the courage to bring out her voice. I enjoyed the story written from Mattie's perspective and that it displayed actual difficulties that a child may go through when it comes to shyness and struggles about the social world. Many kids might see themselves in Mattie's shoes and may find the strength and courage to find the voice that is hidden for one reason or another. Better yet, other readers may find themselves choosing to recognize that one shy person and help them blossom with some encouragement. It is a short read and it focuses on family, friendship and becoming brave enough to speak up when the time is right. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 9-12.~
Title: Hound Dog True
Author: Linda Urban
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction
Pub. Date: September 2011, Harcourt Children's Books
Hardcover. 152 pgs.