Missing Mike

248p. Pajama Pr. Sept. 2018. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781772780451.
Gr 4–6—When wildfires threaten her small Canadian town of Pine Grove, almost 11-year-old Cara Donovan and her family must abruptly evacuate, leaving behind her beloved dog, Mike, who has run off in the turmoil. Devastated that she is abandoning her one-eyed, loyal companion, Cara vows to find Mike. Buoyed by the kindness of people at the evacuation city site, the Donovans spend nights with a host family, help sort food and clothing at the community center, get updates on the fires, and try to keep their spirits up. Cara befriends Jewel, a savvy foster kid, who helps her print posters about Mike, join a missing pets hotline, contact animal shelters, and even make a furtive but futile back roads attempt to find Mike in charred, off limits, Pine Grove. This novel-in-verse poignantly captures the harrowing impact of wildfires and the cascade of emotions that engulf Cara. She agonizes over Mike's fate, vacillates between hope and despair, and learns from the anxiety, grief, and resilience of others. Cara is an appealing, believable narrator whose story unfolds through succinct and vivid descriptions, interactions and vignettes with family and friends, and self-reflection. Her mix of fears, insecurities, optimism, and penchant for crossword puzzles will resonate. She discovers that home has many meanings. An appropriately realistic—but still happy and hopeful—ending brings a satisfying resolution.
VERDICT Cara provides a dramatic and youthful eyewitness perspective on wildfires, evacuation operations, the kindness and generosity of strangers, and the traumatic uncertainty of loss. A timely addition to middle grade collections.

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