Harcourt Young Classics, 2000. 978-0-15-202499-4
Synopsis: Ten-year-old Jerry and nine-year-old Rachel Pye live in the small town of Cranbury, halfway between New York and Boston. The family has a cat, but Jerry very much wants a dog. But not just any dog: the smartest dog that could do all kinds of tricks. After earning a dollar dusting the church pews, Jerry and Rachel buy a puppy from their neighbors and name him Ginger. But after they bring Ginger home, an unsavory character in a yellow hat begins hanging around and following the Pye children. When Ginger is kidnapped, it will take lots of sleuthing and love to bring Ginger home.
Why I picked it up: I remember starting it years ago and never finishing it, so I thought I would go back and re-read it.
Why I finished it: Estes’ former career as a children’s librarian comes out in the text. She has definitely captured the child’s voice in the text as the story moves along from how the children will earn the dollar to buy a puppy, to bringing him home and naming him, to the search to bring home their beloved pet. There are little sketches mixed in with the text that help readers make the transition from picture books to more lengthy chapter books. What I did not like about the book was that it seemed forever to get to the point. There are flashbacks within the text detailing past events, such as how Mrs. Pye met Mr. Pye, why Dick Badger swims perpendicularly, and other little stories the take place before the start of the book that often don’t have anything to do with the story and could be distracting. It is clearly illustrating how the mind wanders in moments of boredom or terror, but don’t seem to hold the reader’s attention. Those with animals will be able to relate to the heartbreak Jerry and Rachel experience when they lose their dog and cheer them on as they try to solve the mystery of the unsavory character in the yellow hat. The ending was sort of predictable (to me), but the children are always the heroes.
Other related materials: The Moffats by Eleanor Estes, Pinky Pye by Eleanor Estes, Henry and Ribsy by Beverly Cleary, Ribsy by Beverly Cleary, The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary, The Borrowers by Mary Norton