Parents' Guide to


By Matt Berman, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Gripping story of teen entering foster care.

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Though the plot is minimal, STRAYS is absolutely impossible to put down. Ron Koertge accomplishes this mainly with two ingredients. The first is compelling characters -- not just the narrator, Ted, who can talk with animals both real and imaginary, but especially Astin, his older roommate. Astin is every wimp's dream of a friend -- powerful, competent, wise, and mostly kind -- who not only protects Ted but also teaches him how to begin to cope with the world.

The second is the intriguing element of magic realism. Ted's ability to communicate with animals is handled with great subtlety and a very light, offhand touch. It's never really clear whether it's all in Ted's imagination or not, but it adds delightful and very poignant depth to his loneliness and isolation among humans. It's the perfect, lovely touch that raises this novel above the norm, and gives it unusual heart and resonance.

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