Strider has a new habit. Whenever we stop, he places his paw on my foot. It isn't an accident because he always does it. I like to think he doesn't want to leave me.
Can a stray dog change the life of a teenage boy? It looks as if Strider can. He's a dog that loves to run; because of Strider, Leigh Botts finds himself running well enough to join the school track team. Strider changes Leigh on the inside, too, as he finally begins to accept his parents' divorce and gets to know a redheaded girl he's been admiring. With Strider's help, Leigh finds that the future he once hated to be asked about now holds something he never expected: hope.
Although it lacks the emotional intensity that made Cleary's Newbery-winning Dear Mr. Henshaw an instant classic, this sequel offers further proof of the author's preeminence in children's fiction. Here, as in the preceding novel, she credibly and cogently writes in the voice of Leigh Botts--a boy with whom readers of both sexes will find much in common. Through entries made in a diary that he uncovers when cleaning his room, Leigh (now 14) tells of the dog that he and his friend find abandoned on the beach. The boys assume joint custody of the pet, which they name Strider. But it soon becomes evident that Strider has rescued Leigh from physical and emotional apathy. Leigh's relationship with his devoted pet gives him the strength to deal with what seem to be insurmountable problems: his parents' separation, his dad's imperfections and even his attraction to a girl at school. Zelinsky's sketchy artwork provides quietly affecting details. Once again Cleary demonstrates her ability to write from the heart. Ages 8-up. (Sept.)