Maxi's Secrets: Or What You Can Learn from a Dog
Maxi's Secrets: Or What You Can Learn from a Dog

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Annotation: Fifth-grader Timminy, who is small for his age and new in town, is not eager to start middle school, but he gets a great consolation prize in Maxi, a big, deaf, lovable dog.
Catalog Number: #143374
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Penguin
Copyright Date: 2017
Edition Date: 2017
Pages: 262 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-399-54568-9 Perma-Bound: 0-605-98088-8
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-399-54568-9 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-98088-4
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2016003361
Dimensions: 20 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
Timminy isn't thrilled about moving to a new town just before starting middle school, but his nerves are alleviated somewhat when his family gets Maxi, a dog they soon discover is deaf. Timminy and Maxi become inseparable despite Timminy's diminutive stature and Maxi's Great Pyrenees enormity. But readers be warned: "Let's get this part over with," Timminy says on the first page. "My dog, Maxi, dies." This foresight does nothing to alleviate the pangs readers will feel as the tale unfolds and Timminy learns to let Maxi go. Plourde's skillful blend of humor, pathos, and wisdom creates a story that begs to be shared with middle-grade students, who will fall in love with a deaf dog, her steadfast owner, and the rest of the characters who populate the novel. More than just another "dead dog" book, this is a story of love and friendship that deserves to join the ranks of other unforgettable canines and their owners.
Horn Book
Timminy, self-conscious about his short stature, starts middle school in a new town in Maine. With his deaf puppy, Maxi, Timminy navigates friendships (especially with blind neighbor Abby) and challenges, including Maxi's death from bone cancer. Though the author unpacks many life lessons along the way, a saccharine voice and a heavy-handed treatment of physical disabilities overwhelm the tale.
Kirkus Reviews
My dog, Maxi, dies," warns Timminy at the start of this friendship tale set in small-town Maine. After preparing readers for the inevitable, the white boy comforts them (and himself) with memories of how Maxi—a huge, deaf Great Pyrenees—helped him to make friends and cope with a bully after starting middle school in a new town as a "shrimpy kid." Walking with Maxi, he meets Abby: the "blindest" and "blackest" kid in school, who has no patience for his troubles. The old trope of sassy disabled and/or black characters dispensing tough love is mitigated here by explanations of blindness and "blind talk": funny, surprising, and gross ways to describe particular qualities of what Abby can't see. Maxi—"a marshmallow in the middle of a big bowl of broccoli"—ultimately reveals similar qualities in her humans, finally coaxing sympathy from Abby and exposing a bully Timminy calls "the Beast of the East" as a nice guy, while Timminy learns to laugh at himself. Maxi's death may prompt a few sniffles, but Timminy's coping strategies could help readers dealing with the loss of a pet. A short subplot mentions MIRA, a real organization that provides guide dogs to kids. Each chapter is summarized by a "secret": an aphorism that applies to life in general. Though purposive, this earnest boy-and-his-dog tale makes a strong case for Secret No. 11: "There's nothing so bad in the world that dog kisses won't make it better." (Fiction. 9-12)
Publishers Weekly
Really, really short" for his age, Timminy knows that he'll be the perfect target for bullies at his new school. The only upside to his family's recent move is Maxi, a Great Pyrenees puppy. She immediately wins the fifth-grader's heart, and nothing-not her strong will, smelly accidents, or deafness-lessens his devotion to her. Maxi's endearing personality and outgoing nature help Timminy develop relationships with two neighbors: gruff and imposing Rory, who surprises Timminy with unexpected kindness and complexity; and visually impaired Abby, who has little patience for Timminy's self-pity and challenges his defeatist attitude. The story opens with Timminy telling readers that Maxi dies, but this information fades to the background as they watch Timminy come into his own and Maxi become a hero in ways both big and small. In her first middle grade novel, picture book author Plourde (Merry Moosey Christmas) clearly shows Maxi's remarkable influence on the lives of Timminy, his family, and his friends. This story is a tender reminder that perceived shortcomings don't define us and that the power of friendship can't be underestimated. Ages 10-up. Agent: Susan Cohen, Writers House. (Aug.)
Voice of Youth Advocates
Being exceedingly short with a diminutive-sounding name means Timminy has been continually bullied in school. Miserably anticipating beginning fifth grade in a new town and school, his lifeline becomes Maxi, a bouncy puppy destined to become a gargantuan-sized dog. That Maxi is deaf leads Timminy to immerse himself with her special training and provides a refuge from school, mostly spent jammed inside lockers or hiding in bathrooms. Another positive is Abby, his neighbor and popular classmate who happens to be blind but hardly allows it to define or limit her. This outlook gives Timminy pause, especially after Abby challenges his constant "woe is me" attitude. The confidence and pride gained from working and playing with Maxi allows Timminy to form his first real friendship with Abby, and more follow after cautiously joining her circle. Maxi's ebullience attracts former enemies who become friendly, revealing all are multifaceted and that friends require friendliness.Timminy is a funny, personable narrator, and immediately reveals that Maxi diesas Sounder or Old Yellerso, while her death is heartbreaking, knowing beforehand allows a hopeful, satisfying conclusion. Chapters end with one of Maxi's "secrets," such as, "Everyone has hidden talents," which summarize the chapter and provoke thought. Bullying and disabilities are handled honestly, although characters could be more developed and realistic, as bullies quickly become friends and Timminy's disabled classmates are exceedingly popular and optimistic. Perfect for reading aloud, any middle-level or younger student, especially dog lovers, will adore this humorous, heartwarming story of overcoming adversity.Lisa Hazlett.
Word Count: 48,617
Reading Level: 4.1
Interest Level: 5-9
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.1 / points: 7.0 / quiz: 184832 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:3.7 / points:11.0 / quiz:Q70842
Lexile: 650L
Chapter 1

Let's get this part over with--it's NO secret.
     My dog Maxi dies.
     Just like Old Yeller, Sounder, Old Dan, and Little Ann all died. Except those dogs were fiction. You cried, I cried when fake dogs died. Maxi was real.
     So real, I can still sniff and get a whiff of her stinky dog breath--even though she's been gone for forty-one days now. Maybe it's because I haven't vacuumed a single strand of the white fur coat she left behind. And when your dog is a giant, that's enough fur to cover a baby polar bear. Her dried dog slobber is everywhere too--like a hundred tattoos she branded my room with so I wouldn't forget her
    NO WAY I'd forget her.
    I swear some nights I still hear Maxi nudging my bedroom door coming in to check on me after checking the rest of the house. With her guard duties done, she can plop down on my mattress. My mattress that's still on the floor because she couldn't climb up in bed with me anymore so I moved it down to her level.
    But when I wake confused and open the door to let her in, there's just EMPTINESS. Emptiness that I rush to shut out, but I can't. Emptiness slips under the covers with me. Emptiness is cold, not dog-warm. Emptiness is silent, not dog-snoring. Emptiness stinks worse than a dog's breath. Emptiness stinks so bad it can suffocate you.
    But you can't let it.
    When I start to breathe again, I realize HAVING Maxi in my life will always be a bigger deal than losing Maxi. Her tail still thumps-thumps-thumps in my heart.
    And that crazy dog taught me so much. You won't believe all the secrets she shared with me. Plus some other secrets she helped me dig up, deeper than buried bones, inside myself. And sniff out still more secrets from others.
    Except, they're NOT secrets anymore since I'm telling you. That's okay cause Maxi would want you to know. She'd bark them to the world if she could.
     If she were still here.
You can learn a lot from a dog you love.
Chapter 2
To be honest, I never dreamed of getting a dog. Maxi was a bribe from my parents.
    "We know you don't like the idea of moving, Timminy, but Skenago is out in the country. So guess what?" My mom looked at my dad, as if they'd rehearsed this, and he chimed in with her, "You can have a dog!"
    I folded my arms. "No, thanks. I'll just stay here in Portland, in our apartment. You two can move to Skenago and get a dog to keep you company. I'm not going."
    Yup. Even as a fourth grader, I was lippy. That happens when you're short--you're always trying to find ways to sound and act BIGGER.
    My parents usually called me out for being a wise-mouth, but I knew they wouldn't that time because they wanted me to move more than they wanted me to shut my trap.
    It worked. They won. The landlord wouldn't take my piggybank for rent money so we all moved to the house in the country. I hated moving, although Maxi was the ultimate consolation prize. Besides, I doubt Maxi would have survived the busy streets of Portland with her disability.
     I'm not sure Maxi ever realized she had a disability--not once in her whole short life. We didn't notice when we first got her, and by the time we figured it out, it didn't matter.
     My parents didn't return me to Maine Med where I was born, when they realized years later, that I took after my great-great uncle Lex and was short, really, really short--in the .001 percentile of height for kids my age (Notice I said KIDS--I'm not just short for boys my age, but girls too). Poor Great-great Uncle Lex owned a meat market and had to stand on a wooden crate to see over the counter to wait on his customers. You'll be glad to know I've already crossed butcher off my future dream-jobs list.
    No, if my parents didn't bring me back to the hospital when they found out what was wrong with me, I wouldn't bring Maxi back to the breeder's just because of her disability.
    Actually, the first time I met Maxi, I didn't see anything wrong with her, and she didn't see anything wrong with me either, I guess.
    My parents and I stepped inside the circular wire fence for a closer look at the seven pups for sale in the litter. One puppy began circling me, keeping the others away. I scooped it up--nose to snout--
and . . .
    Smooch! Slurp!
    "This is the one," I told my parents.
     "But what about one of the boys?" Dad asked.
     "Dad, I'm your boy. Time to mix things up with a girl."
    "Are you sure? This is the first puppy ad we've answered," Mom whispered so the breeder wouldn't hear. "And we have three more places to check. Maybe we should see those first."
    Maxi wouldn't stop licking me.
    "She's crazy about me, Mom."
    "But some of the other breeds we're looking at are . . . different . . . they're not quite as . . . um . . ."
    "Spit it out, Mom--BIG! The other breeds aren't as big as Great Pyrenees. You're worried your puppy will grow up to be bigger than your son."
    "I was going to say white, Timminy. It'll be hard to keep a white dog clean."
    I made Mom a bunch of kid promises. "I'll give her a bath twice a week. I'll brush her teeth so you can't tell where her white fur ends and her white teeth begin."
    Then I really piled it on." Puhleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease! You moved me to this new town where I'm all alone and have no friends. This pup is all I've got."
    Dad looked at Mom. "Give it up, Lynda. You've already lost this one."
    "Thanks, Dad," I said, grateful that I didn't have to turn on the tears. I would have if I had to.
     After they paid and we were loading Maxi (Maxi--who didn't have the name Maxi yet, but I can't just call her IT, can I?) into our car, Dad opened the back hatch.
    "I'll just hold her in the backseat with me," I said.
    "No, Timminy. She's going back here in the crate we brought."
    "That's mean, Dad. Look, she's shivering. She's never been away from her pack before. If I hold her, she'll know she still has a pack, just a new one."
    Mom piped in, "But what if she does her "business' in the car?"
    "She won't. Let's see if she has to go now. And if she still goes in the car, I'll clean it up."
    My parents looked skeptical, but didn't say anything as I led Maxi around the breeder's yard with a leash. Actually, she led me around the yard as she stopped to sniff every two feet . . .
    two feet, sniff,
    two feet, sniff-sniff,
    two feet, sniff-sniff-sniff,
    two feet, sniff-sniff-sniff-sniff-squat-pee.
    Success! I was prouder than the first time I peed by myself on the potty chair.
    "See, Mom."
    I climbed into the backseat with Maxi.
    "Lynda?" Dad looked at Mom for permission to drive off.
    "Kenneth?" Mom threw the question right back at him.
    "Oh, okay," he sighed. "Are you buckled up back there?"
    "The two-legged one is buckled. Not sure how to buckle the four-legged one."
    Dad gave me one of those looks in the rearview mirror. I shut my trap before he decided to put me in the crate.
     As we headed home, the more Maxi quivered, the tighter I held her. I was hoping she'd doze off, but instead she started whining. So I held her even tighter. Too tight, I guess.       Squeezed something right out of her.
    I froze, hoped no one would notice.
    But Mom sniffed and looked at Dad. "Kenneth, is that you?"
    "Not me," said Dad.
    "Kenneth?" She didn't believe him. Whenever Dad cuts the cheese, he always denies it and says, "First one who smelled it must have dealt it."
    When Dad didn't give his "smelled it" line, Mom realized he wasn't the one who dealt it.
    "Timminy!" they both shouted.
    "Wasn't me."
    "The puppy!" My parents were getting good at talking in unison.
    "Why don't they make diapers for puppies?" I asked. "After all, they're just babies."
Sometimes love stinks.
Chapter 3
So how did Maxi end up with the name Maxi?
    First you have to know my dad has always been the NAMER in our family. It wasn't a male dominance kind of thing for Dad. "Ugh! Me Kenneth, me nameth." Nah! It's just he really liked naming things. He was into genealogy and a lifetime member of I may not like the names my dad comes up with, but I've gotta give him credit for being the hardest-working Namer I know.
    Take my name, Timminy. Dad wanted to honor our families when he named me so he studied his and mom's family trees. He should have saved himself some work and just named me Great-great Uncle Lex the Second--except he didn't know then I'd grow up to be a shorty. After all, all babies are short. They're measured in INCHES!
    He decided in the end to call me Timminy in honor of two great-great grandfathers. On Mom's side, my great-great-grandfather Timotheus, who'd been a preacher and whose name meant "valued by God." Maybe Dad thought he'd be guaranteeing me a ticket to heaven with that part of my name. The other part was from Dad's side, my great-great-grandfather Minyamin, which meant "right-hand son." I'm LEFT-handed, which Dad didn't know when I was a baby.
    So in the end, half of TIMotheus plus half of MINYamin equals TIMMINY. That's me.
    When you have a name no one has heard before, you're called other things . . . TimOTHy (even when teachers read it on their class lists, they usually say OTH instead of IN--and they're supposed be teaching me how to read?!) Some shorten it to Timmi (a little too cutesy for my taste with that i at the end). And then there's the nickname Minny. I didn't mind "Minny" when I was young, but for a kid my size it stinks big time now (bigger even than Maxi stinks when she does her business).
    But enough about me. What about Maxi's name? Dad was determined to name her "Maxine" after my great-great aunt Maxine who owned twenty-three dogs at one time, although I protested.
    "Dad, you can't name this puppy "Maxine.'"
    "Maxine, it is." Dad said. "I've researched carefully. Great-great Aunt Maxine would be most honored--God rest her soul."
    "Dad, this puppy would be most embarrassed--God wouldn't stick her with a name that OLD. What will the other puppies in the neighborhood think?"
    "I've made up my mind, Timminy."
    I didn't fight him. I just started calling her Maxi.
    When Dad said, "But her name's really Maxine," I answered, "Yeah, but she doesn't look like a "Maxine" yet--we can call her that when she's an old girl. Maxi is a good nickname for a puppy."
    Of course, I had no way of knowing then that Maxi would never get to be an old girl.
    I also had no way of knowing then that it didn't matter WHAT we called her . . . Maxine, Maxi, Backseat Pooper--since she never once heard us say her name.
Sometimes all the energy you put into something you think matters, doesn't matter one bit.
Chapter 4
So how long did it take us to realize Maxi was deaf?
    Longer than you'd think.
    We were busy unpacking from our move and checking out our new town. Skenago's corner store sold more than fifty flavors of homemade fudge and it had a drive-in movie theater--none of us had ever been to a drive-in so we went twice in one week and saw the SAME movie.
    Plus we were puppy newbies and busy with all that feeding-walking-peeing-pooping stuff. It's not easy. I gained new respect for Great-great Aunt Maxine, the Queen of Canines. How'd she handle twenty-three dogs at once? I could hardly handle one.
    Take Maxi out--nothing happens.
    Take Maxi back out--nothing happens.
    Take Maxi back out again--nothing happens.
    Take Maxi in--SOMETHING!
    Poor Great-great Aunt Maxine! That must have been SOMETHING to take care of all those dogs' SOMETHINGS!
    Besides figuring out Maxi's bathroom schedule, I tried to learn all I could about her breed.     Great Pyrenees were bred to guard livestock and make sure no big bad wolves snuck up at night and got them. Poor Maxi! Dad, Mom, and I were her only livestock. She'd try to gather us into one room so we'd be easier to guard, but we weren't very cooperative. I'd be playing games in my room, Mom would be reading in her room, Dad would be watching the History Channel in the living room, and Maxi would be roaming room to room to room.
Sometimes, we'd yell, "Pig pile," and run and crash on Dad. Then Maxi only had to walk around and around the couch to keep us safe from those big bad wolves. Good girl!
    Great Pyrenees are also super smart. Just what I, a smarty pants, deserved. They were bred to think for themselves. That's why it takes them longer to learn to follow commands.
    We also didn't know anyone else with a Pyr (that's the short name for Great Pyrenees) to compare our experiences to. I read stuff online, the vet told us more stuff, but the best place was the I Love Great Pyrenees Facebook page. Dad found it and shared their posts with me
    (Don't tell Dad, but I'm glad he did. It was sort of like our own Secret Dog Club.)
    "Jiminy Criminy, Timminy, take a gander at this one."
    Poor Dad! Still stuck in Pinocchio Land talking about Jiminy Cricket. And who uses the word gander? My dad does. If you bothered to ask him, (what was I thinking!) he'd say, "Gander, as a verb, has American origins, around 1900, and came from the idea of a male goose stretching its long neck to get a better look at something."
    So I took a gander over Dad's shoulder. "Wow! Look at that one." The Facebook photo showed a giant Pyr sitting on a woman's lap with the words "My baby!"
    "It seems all Pyrs, no matter their size, think they're lapdogs." Dad laughed, then pointed.     "Check out the comments. Everyone's saying how much their Pyrs weigh . . . 146 pounds . . . 151 . . ."
    I jumped in. "This one's only 109 pounds. But that one says 139, 183, 164. Yikes--192!
    "Don't tell your mother. She doesn't need to know how big Maxi might get."
    Just then Mom walked by. "Don't tell me what?" she asked.
     "Nothing, Lynda," said Dad. "Just a guy secret
    Mom sighed, patted Maxi who was lying at Dad's feet, and said, "Well, then Maxi and I won't tell you our gal secret--that the average adult female Pyr weighs 85-115 pounds and gains up to ten pounds a month during the first year. But, shhhhh, Maxi, don't yip a word of it to the guys." Mom walked off.
    "How's she do that, Timminy? How's your mom get me every single time?"
    "Um . . . Dad, you forget moms have eyes in the back of their heads, plus it looks to me like you leave the door wide open for her to walk right in and get you
    "Come on, Maxi." Dad tugged on her collar. "Let's go for a walk. You're the only one in this house who doesn't give me any lip."
Something can stare you in the face and you still can't see it. Better take another gander.

Excerpted from Maxi's Secrets: (or What You Can Learn from a Dog) by Lynn Plourde
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

When a BIG, lovable, does-it-her-way dog wiggles her way into the heart of a loudmouth pipsqueak of a boy, wonderful things happen that help him become a bigger, better person. Perfect for fans of Wonder and Because of Winn-Dixie.
Timminy knows that moving to a new town just in time to start middle school when you are perfect bully bait is less than ideal. But he gets a great consolation prize in Maxi—a gentle giant of a dog who the family quickly discovers is deaf. Timminy is determined to do all he can to help Maxi—after all, his parents didn't return him because he was a runt. But when the going gets rough for Timminy, who spends a little too much time getting shoved into lockers at school, Maxi ends up being the one to help him—along with their neighbor, Abby, who doesn’t let her blindness define her and bristles at Timminy’s “poor-me” attitude. It turns out there’s more to everyone than what’s on the surface, whether it comes to Abby, Maxi, or even Timminy himself.

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