Paintings From the Cave by Gary Paulsen.
Wendy Lamb Books/Random House: NY, 2011.

Paulsen is an amazing author. He takes short and simple stories and fills them with soul. This book is three intense novellas about kids growing up amidst abuse and neglect, forced to be the adults. The stories feel real and each circumstance is different and original. In two of the stories, an aptitude for art helps a child to transend the surroundings. Also in two of the stories, dogs are a key factor in healing the children, giving them friendship and a sense of joy. There are varying degrees of transformation. It is a book of reality, not a feel good book. The children have limited interaction with people of other lifestyles, and sometimes outside influences are not enough to pull a child out of a bad situation. The ending story is the most hopeful of the three, though the other two have glimmers. Very strong stories for being so short. The reader is immediately transported. I love the use of the art experiences and the dogs.

YA because of violence, but reading level is middle grades.

related-short stories, violence, homeless persons, experiencing art, communication with and understanding dogs, dealing with illness

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