Sunday, July 4, 2021

MMGM: Secondhand Dogs by Carolyn Crimi

Secondhand Dogs by Carolyn Crimi.
illustrated by Melissa Manwill
Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins, 2021, 256 pages

Meet Gus, a wise old terrier, Tank, a bulldog, three-legged Roo, and Moon Pie, a young pug. They are a collection of rescues that live with Miss Lottie. Each doggo has its own personality and its own designated dog bed, except Moon Pie who sleeps with Miss Lottie in her big, soft bed. Moon Pie had had a nice life eating popcorn and watching TV with Gertie, who unfortunately passed away. When she came to live with Miss Lottie a month ago, Gus, the leader of this pack of gentle dogs, thought it best to not yet to tell Moon Pie what happened to Gertie, and so Moonie thinks he will be returning to her when she comes back from vacation. Also living with Miss Lottie is Ghost, a cat who basically lives under a bed, and with whom Gus made a tenuous agreement to live and let live. To help out with her canine family, Miss Lottie hired Quinn, a young boy who had recently lost his dad and his dog, and who is now being bullied by his older brother's friends. Quinn loves nothing more than to escape to Miss Lottie's to care for the dogs he loves as much as she does. 

Into this happy mix comes Decker, a shepherd/doberman mix. Gus is rightfully worried about this new addition, who just doesn't feel like he will fit into the pack. The very first night, Decker manages to get Moon Pie's spot on Miss Lottie's bed, but then begins to intimate the little guy. The next day, during their yard time, Tank, who is Moonie's self-appointed protector, has a showdown with Decker. Everyone is surprised when Decker bites his own paw and needs to go to the vet's. Tank is blamed for the bite and put into his kennel. Little by little, Decker erodes Gus as the leader of the pack, but it soon becomes clear that his goal is to get rid of all the other dogs. 

When Decker learns that Gertie has passed away, he convinces Moon Pie that she is home and looking for him. Not only that, but Decker convinces Moonie to run away through a hole in the back fence. Angry that the other dogs had lied to him about Gertie and intimidated by Decker, Moonie escapes into the back alley when no one is paying attention. When Miss Lottie finally notices Moon Pie is gone, she calls Quinn to help look for him, but later Gus, Tank, and Roo decide to take matters into their own hands, escaping the same way Moonie did. None of them know where they are going, and must on Roo's excellent sense of smell to lead them. One scent they all pick up carries danger in it, but what can it be? Quinn is also worried, knowing his mother had lately spotted a coyote in the neighborhood. And Miss Lottie is beside her self with grief realizing all her beloved dogs are missing - except Decker, who is now calm and content to be an only dog. Decker has some hard lessons ahead of him about family, loyalty and love, but first, will all of Miss Lottie's doggos return home safe and sound? Or...?

Secondhand Dogs is an exciting novel for kids who like animal stories in general, and dog stories in particular and it is especially interesting because it is narrated mainly from the point of view of five dogs, one cat and two humans in alternating chapters. And along the way, there are chapters giving the back story of each character - canine and human, including Decker, whose traumatic past will definitely garner some sympathy for him. What's really nice about this dog's tale is that each canine has such a distinct personality. Gus is gentle and peace-loving, Roo is excitable and impulsive, Tank may be big and slow, but he's also a protector, and Moon Pie is just a popcorn-loving sweetie. It also wasn't lost on me that Quinn's story is an interesting parallel to Moon Pie's. 

Secondhand Dogs is a satisfying story with some tension but few surprises. This is the kind of middle grade book that is just perfect book for some good summer reading. 

Meet the Author:
Carolyn Crimi received her MFA in Writing for Children from Vermont College in 2000. She has published over 15 books, including Dear Tabby, Don't Need Friends, Boris and Bella, Henry and the Buccaneer Bunnies, Where's My Mummy? and I Am the Boss of this Chair. Her book There Must be Lobsters won The Golden Kite Award in 2018 for Best Picture Book Text, and her middle grade debut, Weird Little Robots, was named a BEA Book Buzz pick. Carolyn has received over thirty state awards and award nominations and was give The Prairie State Award in 2012 for her body of work. 
You can visit Carolyn at 
Facebook: Carolyn Crimi
Twitter: @crims10

Thank you to Barbara Fisch at Blue Slip Media for providing me with an ARC to read and review. 

Be sure to check out the other Marvelous Middle Grade Monday offerings, 
now being carried on by Greg at Always in the Middle.


  1. I don't read many animal books, but this one sounds particularly fun, so I wrote it down on my endless list of books to try out! All of these dogs, cats, and humans sound like mostly-delightful characters, and it's wonderful that you get to hear from each of their perspectives. And I'm curious to see how Decker develops over time too!

    Also, I bought a copy of Kyle's Little Sister because of your review a few weeks ago, and I'm really enjoying it, so thank you! I'm hoping to post my review soon-ish. Thanks so much for the great post today!

  2. I enjoyed this one, too. The large number of viewpoints usually turns me off, but this worked really well especially each character's back story. Thanks for featuring on MMGM.

  3. Animal lovers will be delighted with this story. Miss Lottie sure likes dogs and cats! What fun summer read!

  4. It sure sounds like there is a LOT going on in this book. I'm not much for animal stories, but I might check it out. Thanks for telling me about it.


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