Immortal Max (2014)

Booklist Online Exclusive: May 16, 2014


Sam dreams of a purebred puppy—not the shaggy, smelly, old Max his sister rescued from the shelter, but a real dog. To earn money, he begins walking designer dogs in CountryWood, the new gated community

outside his small town. Status, wealth, and distance combine to separate townies from “burbies,” and much of the book looks at wealth, happiness, and contentment. Sammy has a lot, once he starts looking at it right: a loving, hardworking family; a growing circle of friends; and a faithful dog. Subplots weave through the story: a Little Princess Beauty Pageant, his sister’s nearing departure for college, his overweight neighbor’s attempts to fit in with CountryWood girls, and, especially, the bullying from Justin, a rich boy in the gated community who tries to get Sam fired, with tragic results. Clifton (Freaky Fast Frankie Joe, 2012) creates a diverse cast of strongly drawn multicultural characters without being overly heavy-handed. This naturally developing story is a good choice for dog lovers and anyone looking over the fence at a life that seems better.


— Suzanne Harold


Good Reads with Rona, July 2, 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. (Reviewed by MaryAnne Locher)




Will a boy's dream of owning a puppy ever come true?


Twelve-year-old Sam has been keeping a scrapbook on dogs for five years, and this summer, he hopes to use it to find a job and get a German shepherd puppy of his own choosing. There are several obstacles. Sam has no money; a puppy might upset the elderly family dog; responsibilities could prevent Sam from working; and a local bully is ready to torment him. But Sam is determined, and with some help from his friends, he lands a job as a dog walker in a nearby gated community. As further ideas, themes, characters, and plot points are thrown into the mix (an overweight friend; a single, working mother; a child beauty pageant; life in a culturally diverse community; money problems, injustice and bias; losing a job; learning to be yourself; experiencing a first date; having an older sibling leave home), the story wobbles under the weight and sometimes loses focus. Sam and his unconscious love for his dog rein the novel in and provide a satisfying if pat ending, as Sam learns to appreciate all he has.


Pleasant if imperfect, a treat for dog lovers. (Fiction 8-12)


Children's Literature


It is the last day of school and twelve-year old Sam Smith is waiting anxiously for his turn to speak. He wants to share his plans for buying a German shepherd puppy before summer vacation ends. Justin, the class bully who lives in the nearby gated community of CountryWood immediately pounces on Sam and his goal by saying that the hundred dollars Sam has saved is not nearly enough for a purebred puppy. A summer job walking dogs in CountryWood seems like the perfect solution. However, it means Sam must arrange caretaking for his younger sister Rosie, looking after Max the family dog, helping hs mother run her gardening business, and juggling chores with his older sister Beth. Because of a series of mishaps, including the death of Justin's dog, Sam loses the job before he has enough for the pouppy. But friends Anise, Lee, and Bailey, combined with Sam's growing maturity, help provide a realistic and satisfactory ending. Youngsters will easily relate to characters and situations authentically described in this story. Dog lovers will find much to enjoy here. Add this title to the first purchase list and use it in a book talk that will keep it in use for quite some time.  Sylvia Firth, Ages 9-12