Friday, May 14, 2010

Calvin Coconut: Dog Heaven by Graham Salisbury

Calvin Coconut used to have a dog, a beagle named Chewy. That was before his dad, Little Johnny Coconut, left Hawaii and moved to Las Vegas to become the famous Little Johnny Coconut and took Chewy with him. Now Calvin is stuck with Manly Stanley, a giant centipede who actually lives at school, and Stella, who does live at Calvin’s house, but she’s a sixteen-year-old Texan allergic to cats and possibly anything else with fur.

But maybe Mr. Purdy’s lessons on persuasive writing will do the trick. The topic? What I Want So Badly I Can Taste It. Calvin’s subject? A dog. He knows he’ll never get one due to Stella’s allergies, but Ledward, Mom’s boyfriend, lends some assistance. He takes Calvin and his sister, Darci, to his place to show him his pet. Blackie. A pig.

And just how does a pig help? Well, not too much, actually, but Ledward grew up having dogs and knows a thing or two about boys and dogs. Ledward plans a secret trip for Calvin to Dog Heaven. “What’s dog heaven?” asks Darci.

“I show you. Go tell the girl you and Calvin going someplace with me,” replies Ledward.

When they arrive at the Humane Society, Calvin meets Streak. Only Streak is actually Ruby, a year-old female Border collie mix. And mom still doesn’t know anything about it, nor has she given even the slightest hint that that she might allow a dog.

Calvin explains, “I started my essay. Mr. Purdy’s one-page assignment had somehow grown four legs and a beating heart. My imaginary dog had become real. Her name was Streak, and I wanted to rescue her.

“So much I could taste it.”

Mr. Purdy’s persuasive writing lessons make an impact on Calvin, and Calvin’s writing will have an impact on readers. Calvin Coconut: Dog Heaven, in a teacher’s hands, may even have an effect on young writers. Calvin has more working for him than his writing – Ledward, mostly – but he’ll take any help he can get to prove that he should get to keep Streak.

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