Book Birthday, Chapter Books, Middle Grade Literature

Happy Book Birthday to Secondhand Dogs by Carolyn Crimi!

Bella and I wish a Happy Birthday to Secondhand Dogs written by Carolyn Crimi and illustrated by Melissa Manwill! Thanks to Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media and Harper Collins for sharing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.


Miss Lottie gives dogs a second chance. Gus was the first dog she adopted; therefore, under Dog Pack Law, he is the leader giving his approval before Miss Lottie brings another dog into the pack. Gus’ track record is perfect with Roo, Tank, and Moon Pie. When Miss Lottie introduces Decker to the pack, Gus smells something not right. He wants to trust his gut instincts, but Miss Lottie keeps comparing Decker to her first dog, Mr. Beans. Perhaps Gus’ dogginess is off and Decker just needs a chance; therefore, Gus gives a half hearted woof and wag. Almost immediately, Decker walks into Miss Lottie’s the van ahead of him. Uh oh! Is Decker challlenging Gus as leader of the pack?

As the story unfolds, readers learn about all the dogs’ history and how they found their forever home with Miss Lottie.  Crimi also shares Decker’s story and why he acts the way he does. Reading the back story of each dog really hit me because as the proud dog mom of Bella (& Etta who passed in February 2020), it is very rare to know about a dog’s prior life before adopting them.  Bella is a sweetheart wagging her tail 90% of the time, but if she hears the sound of metal, her tail goes down and she scurries to her safe spot under our bed. I can speculate, but will never know the roots of that behavior.  

At its heart, Secondhand Dogs is a story about family, for after Miss Lottie’s husband passed away, she needed a purpose.  She soon discovered that giving dogs a second home was a way to heal and be whole.  Another important character in the story is Quinn, Miss Lottie’s neighbor who is coping with a lot of loss-his father’s sudden death, an accident which claimed the life of his dog, Murph, and his changed relationship with his older brother Jessie. After reading Secondhand Dogs, my heart was filled with hope, for whatever happened in the past, we all have a second chance to be happy.

As an educator, I took note of the book length, for the novel is under 250 pages and then more specifically, the chapter length which vary from 4 to 7 pages.  Length can be an important consideration when recommending books to kiids, for stamina for chapter book reading sometimes has to nurtured. While the novel may be short in length, Secondhand Dogs is a story with well developed characters and an abosrbing plot which will appeal to young readers. Manwill’s black and white illustrations support the text in order for readers to better understand the characters and important events.

If you would like to read a sample courtesy of Harper Collins, click here.

Praise for Secondhand Dogs!

“A sensitive, satisfying, and intriguing canine tale.”   —Kirkus Reviews

About the Author:

Carolyn Crimi received her MFA in Writing for Children from Vermont College in 2000. She has published over 15 books, including Dear TabbyDon’t Need FriendsBoris and BellaHenry and the Buccaneer BunniesWhere’s My Mummy?, and I Am the Boss of this Chair. Her book There Might Be Lobsters won The Golden Kite Award in 2018 for Best Picture Book Text, and her middle grade debut, Weird Little Robots, was named a BEA Book Buzz pick. Carolyn has received over thirty state awards and award nominations and was given The Prairie State Award in 2012 for her body of work. You can visit Carolyn at

Facebook: Carolyn Crimi

Twitter: @crims10

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