Storm Watcher by Maria V. Snyder is a middle grade novel. It was published back in 2013, and I am not sure how I missed it since she is one of my favorite authors. I am beyond thrilled that it came to Netgalley recently for me to find!
Luke Riley is lost. His mother's recent death has set Luke and his family adrift. Even though his father, twin brothers, and their three Bloodhounds are search and rescue volunteers, they have been unable to rescue themselves and become a family again. The summer after sixth grade looms in Luke's mind as a long, lonely three months where the only thing he can look forward to is watching The Weather Channel. Luke is fascinated with the weather, but since his mother's death in a storm, he is also terrified. Even the promised 13th birthday present of a Bloodhound puppy fails to lift Luke's spirits. He would rather have a different breed - a petite Papillon, but his father insists he get a Bloodhound. When Luke decides to get the Bloodhound from Willajean, a dog breeder who owns Storm Watcher Kennel, he works out a deal to help at her kennel in exchange for the expensive dog. Thrilled to have a summer with a purpose, Luke befriends Willajean's daughter, Megan and together they plan how Luke can get a Papillon puppy instead of a Bloodhound. But nothing seems to work as they struggle with stubborn fathers, summer storms, unhelpful siblings, and hidden guilt. Can one little white dog really save both families?
Storm Watcher is a wonderful realist fiction novel that imparts all sorts of lessons without ever feeling preachy- a tough balance to hit. Luke is struggling to come to terms with the loss of his mother, and the related guilt he feels about her death. He loves his family’s dogs, but wants something a little different and will do just about anything to make it happen. He works at a nearby dog breeders to earn his puppy- though weather he gets the dog he wants or the bloodhound his father insists on is up for debate. Responsibility and perseverance are the name of the game as he works his way through the summer. Willajean and Luke’s father might not always seem nice, but through the story even when you disagree with their stance or actions you can tell they really care and are trying to do the right thing. All of the characters have moments of good and bad, including Luke and Wiglsjean’s daughter Megan. The complex and growing characters make everything so real that I was really engaged in their story, and still am long after finishing the book. The layer’s of Luke’s thoughts and fears bring everything home, his fear and fascination of the weather, his guilt and sadness in the loss of his mother, and his struggles relating to what is left of his family and the community he had pulled away from. Even when you think you know what another character is thinking, or how something must turn out, there are still some surprises and so much heart to this book that it stays with the reader.
Storm Watcher is a wonderful story about family, lose, and finding what really matters. Issues of guilt and fear are dealt with and can help children understand what others might be going through, and that they are not alone. Heartwarming, and heart wrenching, it brought tears to this stoic reader’s eyes.