Author: Cynthia Chapman Willis
Have you ever loved a dog or shared a part of your life with a special pet? The relationships between people and animals can be fascinating, wonderful, sometimes heartbreaking, and often healing. In my novel, Dog Gone (Square Fish, a division of Macmillan), I explore the relationship between a girl and her dog, both mourning the loss of someone that they love. In Buck Fever (Feiwel and Friends, a division of Macmillan), I explore another kind of bond–that between a boy and a wild animal he is supposed to hunt.
In Dog Gone, my first novel, twelve-year-old Dill (short for Dylan) is coping with the loss of her mom. In addition, Dill needs to figure out what to do about her beloved dog, Dead End. He keeps disappearing and returning home covered in nasty stains and smells. Dill worries that Dead End has become a part of a pack of local dogs that are terrorizing and killing the livestock of farmers in the community. If Dead End is traveling with this pack, he is in danger. Dill’s dad, struggling with his own mourning, will not put up with a misbehaving dog. And the sheriff has vowed to put a stop to this pack. So, how far will Dill and her good friend, a boy named Cub, go to uncover the truth about Dead End while Dill tries to hold together her family, which seems to be falling apart?
In Buck Fever, Joey MacTagert’s dad wants his son to use his special skills to carry on the family tradition of hunting. However, Joey hates the idea of killing animals. He is much more interested in hockey and drawing. To make matters worse, Joey has, through his love of drawing, gained the trust of a legendary local deer, called Old Buck, by spending time in the woods sketching this animal. This is the very deer that Joey’s father wants his son to shoot. Joey wants to make his father proud, but how, he wonders, can he point his rifle at Old Buck? As Joey struggles with this, trouble escalates. Joey decides to try and conquer his fear–his buck fever–for his dad. Unfortunately, trying to be something he is not has consequences for Joey.
Although Dog Gone explores the often grim reality of canine pack instincts, and Buck Fever deals with some of the harsh realities of hunting, these novels also celebrate the devotion between people and the animals that they care about. In these relationships, there is often healing.
Cynthia Chapman Willis is the author of middle-grade novels for children. She wrote Dog Gone, for ages 8-14, before, during, and after her commute to her job as a writer and editor of elementary school Reading textbooks and associated materials for children. Dog Gone, based on a dog Cynthia and her family had when she was growing up in New Jersey, was praised by Kirkus Reviews as “satisfying, appealing . . . a well-told story, spiced with humor and facts on animal care.” And, “Willis, an author to watch, keeps the narrative tightly focused on Dill and her resistance to facing her grief.” Publishers Weekly described Buck Fever, Cynthia’s second middle grade novel, for ages 9 to 14, as “. . . a satisfying novel.
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