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Stripes of the Sidestep Wolf
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Gr 9 Up-This hauntingly beautiful story pits 23-year-old Satchel O'Rye against the world that is his and the world he might have. He lives with his father, mother, and beloved dog in a dying town in rural Australia. Satchel's dad, who closed his service station when his son was 15 and took to his room, believes that God will provide. Despite physical problems, his mother tries to keep the family going with her nursing job. Satchel helps out, but work is hard to find and usually short-lived. While he's cutting firewood, he sees a strange, striped animal. He describes it to a friend's older sister, who recognizes it as a sidestep wolf, or thylacine, an animal that is supposed to be extinct. When Satchel hits his dog with his car, he must decide which is more important: capitalizing on the existence of the animal that has "sidestepped extinction," and thus perhaps earning enough money for his dog's medical bills and his family's survival, or protecting the freedom of the thylacine and her cub. The plot flows gently as Satchel tries to come to terms with his life and to decide whether to stay in his rut or find a different future, a decision made difficult because of his loyalty to his family. A complex, introspective novel with vivid characters.-Janet Hilbun, formerly at Sam Houston Middle School, Garland, TX Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Living in a bypassed Australian town with people "sunk by the dislocation" wrought by a new highway, hardworking 23-year-old Satchel O'Rye is coping as well as he can with his overshadowing mother, Laura, a nurse, and his fanatically religious father, William. Years earlier William suddenly stopped running the local gas station and began creating religious miniature watercolors, becoming increasingly odd and threatening. Laura's longsuffering nature simply serves to "[draw] the bars around [Satchel] tighter." Even his long-time friend, Leroy, finds work out of town, leaving Satchel with Leroy's outcast sister, Chelsea, and his own beloved dog, Moke, as his only companions. In a rather forced subplot, Satchel spies a strange animal in the mountains, and Chelsea speculates that it is a presumed extinct Tasmanian tiger. The day Satchel accidentally hits Moke with his car and then fights back against his father's rages, he again spots the animal and becomes determined to begin his own journey. Published in Australia in 1999, Hartnett's novel is challenging and may be ultimately less rewarding for readers than the ones that followed (Thursday's Child; What the Birds See). Yet the book is characterized by the same graceful prose, unusual protagonist (though somewhat older than is typical for young adult audiences) and keen sense of place that carry the story to its hopeful conclusion. Ages 12-up. (Feb.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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