IMMORTAL MAX by Lutricia Clifton is reviewed by MaryAnne Locher.

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Immortal Max by Lutricia Clifton, Holiday House, 2014.

Middle school can be such a tumultuous time. The difficulties are only compounded when your dad dies, your mom is trying to make ends meet with three children, (one of whom is about to go to college), and wealthy city kids are infiltrating your world and turning your town into the haves and have nots. Thank goodness it’s summer, right?

In Immortal Max by Lutricia Clifton, (Holiday House, 2014, $16.95, Ages 8-12), Sam, a twelve-year-old boy, gets a summer job walking dogs in a gated community so he can save money and buy a purebred, sable colored German Shepherd puppy – the dog of his dreams. The only problem is that Sam already has a dog. Max is a drooling, smelly, supposedly on his last legs mutt, who Sam’s mother thinks will not survive a playful puppy. To top things off, the school bully and Sam’s arch enemy, Justin, will stop at nothing to foil Sam’s plan, including trying to get him fired. It doesn’t help matters that he lives in the wealthy community where Sam will be walking the dogs.

Clifton captures the emotions of the reader with her ability to bring to life, not only the main characters, but the minor players in this tender, though sometimes intense, middle grade novel. Watching Sam grow and develop from a boy with a goal to a young man who has his priorities straight -well, let’s just say, I teared up more than once.

If you’re looking for a book with diverse characters, (Lee, Patel, Wysocki, and Pierce. cheerleaders, geeks, etc.) look no further. This book has them all. As in real life, none of the characters are all good or all bad, they’re perfectly imperfect humans trying to make it through life while having a little fun in the process.

Oh, and then there’s Max. Old, faithful, not-so-scruffy after all, Immortal Max. Before you even open the book, notice how Chris Sheban’s muted gray, green, and gold jacket art focuses on Max’s perspective. In this middle grade story told from the aging dog’s point of view, Sam has always been and always will be the boy of Max’s dreams, but will Sam get the dog of his dreams? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

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