A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Could introduce kids to the idea of magical realism. Teens may enjoy discussing whether or not they think Ted is really talking to animals.
Gives readers empathy for kids growing up in foster families -- also, they will see Ted come of age as he slowly starts making connections with the people in his life.
Positive Role Models
Readers will find it easy to empathize with isolated Ted, placed in foster care after the death of his parents. He is able to speak with animals, and eventually about to connect with other people.
Violence & Scariness
A few punches are thrown. Reference to child pornography.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
References to making out, homophobia, getting laid, and a bare breast.
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Some swearing, including "f--k."
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Products & Purchases
Specific mall chain stores mentioned.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Teens drink, references to drugs.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that while there's nothing graphic, there are many references to things that teen foster kids might encounter, including drinking and drugs, swearing, and child pornography. Readers will find it easy to empathize with isolated Ted, placed in
foster care after the death of his parents -- and find it easy to root for him as he eventually begins connecting with other people. This book includes elements of magical realism, and teens may enjoy
discussing whether or not they think Ted is really talking to animals.
Is It Any Good?
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.