Just when rising seventh-grader Charlene Charley Morgan thinks she's lost everything her nature photographer mother to a plane crash two years ago, her father to his endless work, pain-free mobility to a recent car accident and a summer with her best friend to a snooty tennis star she discovers a wild dog living among her Eagle Lake community in the woods of Charlotte, North Carolina. After naming the chow and shepherd mix Coyote, Charley decides to spend her summer break taming him. Newbery Honor author Stephanie S. Tolan bases Listen! on her own experiences taming an abandoned, abused dog (also named Coyote).
Using Jane Goodall's work with chimpanzees as inspiration, Charley realizes that before she can claim Coyote, she must first spend time in his territory. Braving extreme humidity, rain showers and poison ivy, she keenly observes the dog's habits and creates new routines for them to share. And having plenty of liver chunks on hand, the girl finds, is an ideal way to reward Coyote's new behaviors!Since her mother's death, Charley has tried to close her mind to her memories, but as she takes Coyote on long walks through the woods, the same woods her mother reverently captured with her cameras, she also remembers her mother's encouraging words and different ways of looking at and listening to the world. Following her mother's advice, Charley communicates spirit to spirit with Coyote and ultimately secures his trust.
Their relationship, however, is never one-sided. As Charley introduces Coyote to veterinary care and restores the dog's health and faith in humans, she recovers better use of her injured leg and reconnects with her best friend. With Coyote's help, she also draws her workaholic father back home and finally deals with her grief.
No ordinary dog story, this touching tale combines one girl's passion and determination with one dog's receptive and loving character. The process of Coyote's taming will enthrall readers, while the author's moving descriptions of the woods and lake will have them seeing and listening to nature with newfound appreciation. Angela Leeper is an educational consultant and writer in Wake Forest, North Carolina.