3 out of 4 stars
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Kihei’s Odyssey by Gary Stephens is a children’s book about a lost dog trying to get back home to California. When a poodle-terrier mix named Kihei gets mistakenly loaded into the cargo hold of an airplane, she narrowly escapes from her carrier crate to suddenly realize she’s in Florida. Knowing she must somehow get back home to her owner, Colonel Tom, Kihei sets out for Laguna Beach, hoping to make it back before his annual Christmas dinner. After begging for food and hitching a ride, she ends up traveling to Oklahoma, but she then finds herself running from animal control officers.
When she meets Lola, a poodle-bichon mix, the two team up as travel companions, and they even take a detour to go tailgating at a football stadium. They then proceed to meet a moose in snowy North Dakota and visit a college campus in Nebraska before dodging a tornado that sweeps through a cornfield in Kansas. Next, they stop and visit a roadside carnival, rescue a caged bear, and even ride a floating log down some roaring river rapids in Arizona!
What I enjoyed the most were all the scenes where Kihei embraced her sense of brave determination. She helped rescue a lost surfer, battled a thunderstorm, snuck into a diner, woke a drowsy driver, skateboarded into a pile of fertilizer, hopped onto a freight train, and even traversed some frosty snowdrifts and frozen ponds with grace. Did she ever eventually make it back home safely, and if so, was Colonel Tom willing to accept little Lola too?
This story was 79 pages long, and each of the chapters included a unique blend of character perspectives. Much of the dialogue was spoken by humans, but other quoted lines of speech came from dogs, eagles, beavers, cows, and a juggling bear. I did come across several grammatical and typographical errors while reading, so this title needs to be professionally edited. There were several instances of misplaced or missing punctuation, but the story was otherwise enjoyable overall. There were no other aspects of the book I specifically disliked, aside from the editorial quality.
The story is targeted to readers between the ages of 8 and 12, and I feel this book would be most appropriate for precisely that age range. Kids will giggle at the thought of Kihei scarfing down morsels of food, and they’ll love picturing her scampering down a conveyor belt of stacked suitcases. The author includes several instances of unique terminology that might catch young readers by surprise, but I think most people will probably enjoy unexpectedly coming across words like “delectable,” “bejeebers,” and “vamoose” while reading any animal tale. This plot includes crazy canine antics, dog catchers, big-game hunters, unforgettable sights, memorable characters, and numerous geographical attractions. Several pairs of tiny paws take a nationwide journey that teaches readers many valuable life lessons along the way.
Due to the presence of the errors, I must award the current version of this book a rating of 3 out of 4 stars, but I loved all the embedded mentions of friendship, teamwork, optimism, loyalty, charity, adventure, perseverance, and indomitable determination. Some moments were heartwarming while others were dangerous, but the overall plot presented a nice blend of heroic gestures and accomplishments. I would gladly recommend this book to other animal lovers like myself!
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