Aloha Crossing by Pamela Bauer Mueller

When I was much younger, I had a German Shepherd puppy named Maggie, who my family raised and donated to The Seeing Eye.  I hadn’t thought of that experience in over a decade, but Pamela Bauer Mueller’s Aloha Crossing brought some of those memories flooding back.  

Aloha is a guide dog partnered with Kimberly Louise, an older blind woman who lost her sight in a car accident two years before.  Aloha was raised by Diego, a 12 year old puppy raiser on the other side of the country, in Oregon.  When Diego comes to Georgia to visit Aloha and Kimberly Louise, no one expects the first hurricane in over 100 years to hit southeastern Georgia.  When the Category 4 hurricane makes landfall, Aloha has gone missing and Kimberly Louise and Diego are stranded on the island, praying for their own safety and Aloha’s.

 

This is a beautiful story and will appeal to kids who like adventure stories, because the chapters devoted to the hurricane are frighteningly realistic!  I have never experienced a hurricane, but I have lived through my share of nor’easters, and those are scary enough for me.  Mueller’s description of the hurricane winds, rain, and the overall danger will keep kids turning the pages.  The story will also appeal to animal lovers, because Aloha is an amazing dog and will leave you with tears in your eyes.  (And wishing you could raise a guide dog.  I definitely did not go research raising a guide dog as soon as I closed the book.  Nope, definitely not. )  I think this book will inspire kids to get involved as puppy raisers, or at the least introduce them to the concept.   

At first, I wasn’t sure what to think of Aloha Crossing when I read the first few chapters.  I haven’t read many (if any) middle grade books where an adult is the main character.  I wasn’t sure if kids would identify with Kimberly Louise.  But after giving the book a chance, I couldn’t put it down.  I don’t the human characters in the book matter nearly as much as Aloha does.  And I love the Mueller treats Aloha as a dog, only allowing us to see her through the eyes of the humans around her.  Diego, Mr. Mulligan, David, and of course Kimberly all share their thoughts about Aloha, which builds a clear picture of her.  

This is a great book for middle grade readers, boys and girls alike.  I am looking forward to sharing it with some of my kids when we go back to school next week.  I know it will hook them, and it will serve as a great introduction to living life as a blind person (especially someone who lost their sight late in life).  Blindness isn’t dealt with in a lot of middle grade books, and Mueller does a great job of writing an action-packed, dog-filled story that also teaches kids about tolerance and diversity.  This is a small press book, and I would love to see it get some wider recognition, because it really touches on a lot of ideas and themes that middle grade novels don’t seem to focus on.

Aloha Crossing is the second book about Aloha, though I don’t think you need to read the first in order to get the most out of the story.  I haven’t read Hello, Goodbye, I Love You, but I definitely plan to now!  

 

 

*The opinions expressed here are my own, and do not represent the opinion of the Cybils panel as a whole. 

Poetry Friday

I first heard this poem when James Howe read an excerpt at the TC Reunion.  His reading brought tears to my eyes, as he explained that Marie Howe wrote the poem to her brother after he passed away from AIDS.

 

WHAT THE LIVING DO

by Marie Howe

 

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.

And the Drano won’t work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

 

waiting for the plumber I still haven’t called. This is the everyday we spoke of.

It’s winter again: the sky’s a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

 

the open living-room windows because the heat’s on too high in here and I can’t turn it off.

For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

 

I’ve been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those

wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

 

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.

Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

 

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want

whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss–we want more and more and then more of it.

 

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,

say, the window of the corner video store, and I’m gripped by a cherishing so deep

 

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless:

I am living. I remember you.

 

From The Atlantic

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