Maxi's Secrets by Lynn Plourde

Anyone who has ever moved schools will tell you that moving is hard. Timminy didn't want to leave his friends but had no choice. He ended up with a white Burnese Mountain Dog as a consolation prize.

Life at his new school where his father is Assistant Principal, is difficult. Timminy is small for his age (we never find out why) and ends up getting stuffed into lockers.

It takes a bit, but eventually Timminy ends up connecting to two new friends. There's Abby, a blind girl who lives next door to him. Through her he connects with other kids at school. This is an interesting collection of students who we might consider to be 'the other' as some of them have physical and cognitive issues. And then there is Rory, another neighbour who comes from a dysfunctional family. Rory may or may not be a good guy. Tim isn't sure if he isn't the one stuffing him into the locker, the one saving him, or maybe both.

It takes a near disaster, wherein Maxi saves the day, for Tim to understand who his real friends are.

Shortly after Tim has bonded with his dog, they discover that Maxi is deaf. Thanks to the internet, Tim discovers it is possible to get special collars for deaf dogs. Because Abby and Maxie form such a strong connection, Tim discovers a way for her to get her own guide dog.

I enjoyed this book. I appreciated the quoted lessons, learned by Timminy, that punctuate the ending of each chapter. I liked the well developed mix of diverse characters and the appearance of strong adults.

It's no secret that Maxi dies. We learn that right up front, but somehow forget it as we read and feel how much bigger than life Maxi comes across throughout the book. Maxi ends up with cancer. It makes this book into a serious tear jerker. I've been wondering about how necessary this is and to be honest, I'm conflicted. Maxi's illness brings Tim's new group of friends together, but I wonder if this couldn't have been accomplished in another way. Maybe it's just me and that I don't like books where animals die.

Whatever the answers to my pondering, I'm pretty sure that Maxi's Secrets will be a hit for elementary school students. I'm not really a dog person, and I loved this book.

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