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Eleven-year-old Marty Preston loves to spend time up in the hills behind his home near Friendly, West Virginia. Sometimes he takes his .22 rifle to see what he can shoot, like some cans lined up on a rail fence. Other times he goes up early in the morning just to sit and watch the fox and deer. But one summer Sunday, Marty comes across something different on the road just past the old Shiloh schoolhouses -- a young beagle -- and the trouble begins.
What do you do when a dog you suspect is being mistreated runs away and comes to you? When it is someone else's dog? When the man who owns him has a gun? This is Marty's problem, and he finds it is one he has to face alone. When his solution gets too big for him to handle, things become more frightening still. Marty puts his courage on the line, and discovers in the process that it is not always easy to separate right from wrong. Sometimes, however, you do almost anything to save a dog. When 11-year-old Marty Preston chances upon a mistreated beagle pup in his hometown of Friendly, West Virginia, he is not prepared for the ethical questions he has to face. Should he return the dog to its owner, only to have the animal abused again? Should he tell his parents? Should he steal food to help the poor creature? Marty's efforts to cope with these questions provides the moral backbone for this story, which is presented in a language and manner that will be understood by third- and fourth-grade readers. The heart and beauty of this 1992 Newbery Medal winner lies in lessons children will take away with them.