Book: Sable

Author: Karen Hesse

Illustrator: Marcia Sewall

Publisher: Square Fish, reprinted in 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0805024166 Hardcover

ISBN-10: 0805024166 Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0312376109 Paperback

ISBN-10: 0312376103 Paperback

Language level: 1

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Ages 7 – 10

Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

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Hesse, Karen.   Sable (published in 1994 by Henry Holt and Company Inc., 115 W. 18th St., New York City, NY  10011; republished in 1995 by Scholastic Inc., 555 Broadway, New York City, NY  10012).  Ten year old Tate Marshall lives with her Pap, a cabinet-maker, Mam, and Mam’s crimp-tailed cat Eden, in rural Vermont.  Tate is lonely and wants a dog, but Mam hates dogs because she was torn up by one when she was a little girl.  Then one October day a scrawny mutt turns up in the yard.  It is dark brown except for a blaze of white on her chest and the tip of her tail.  Tate names her Sable because her soft ears remind the girl of the sable fur trim on her Mam’s sweater.

Tate even persuades Mam and Pap to let her keep Sable.  However, it isn’t long before the incorrigible dog begins to cause trouble by stealing from the neighbors.  They complain to the Selectmen, and Mam and Pap decide that the dog must go, so Pap takes her to the home of Doctor Winston in Concord, NH, where he is installing some cabinets.  The doctor says that Tate can come and see Sable at any time.  A little later, Tate gets permission to hitch a ride with their neighbor, Mr. Cobb who has business in Concord, but when she arrives, she learns that Sable has run away.  What will happen to Sable?  Will Tate ever see her dog again?

Most books like this involve a boy and his dog, but this one is about a girl and her dog, though it should appeal to everyone.   It is truly a touching story.  Tate’s attitude is not always the best, but her reactions to various situations are perfectly natural, and everything works out all right in the end.  Publishers Weekly calls it a “superbly structured work,” and the School Library Journal says that the narration “is as honest and direct as the character herself.”   Young children who have dogs or have ever wanted to get a dog will appreciate this chapter book.  The pencil-sketch pictures by illustrator Marcia Sewall, one per chapter, are quite homey.

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