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DOG BONE SOUP is the long-awaited “rest of the story”of Shawn Daniels from the original short story, “Pure Trash.” It’s particularly long-awaited for me because as soon as I read the short story, I wanted to read this book. The only problem was, Bette hadn’t yet written it.

But she did it. Dog Bone Soup is available for your reading pleasure. And what a pleasure it is.

Bette has the purest, freshest writing style I’ve read in many a long year. Reading her prose is like peering into an exceptionally clear, deep pool. It looks like the bottom is close enough to touch, but those waters run deep.

Bette Stevens is a class act, an author who knows how to tell a story. Her characters are real, so true to life, they practically leap off the page. In Dog Bone Soup, style and the story are blended to perfection.

DOG BONE SOUPI’ve read a lot of books about rural poverty and for some reason, all those stories are set in the south. This is as far from south as you can get and a timely reminder that poverty is not regional. It’s everywhere, from the biggest cities to the hidden hamlets where tourists never go.

Shawn Daniels’ story is wonderful story. It’s growing up and coming of age for a poor kid in a dysfunctional family. His world is cold and hardscrabble. A drunken father, a vanishing mother. Foster parents with no love to share, teachers who can’t see past patches and poverty. Yet somehow Shawn forges a road of his own. Armed with courage, humor, and grit, he grows into a strong young man with solid values. And a future.

Sometimes, very little is enough.

No matter how it sounds, there’s nothing depressing about this story. How come? Because Shawn Daniels hasn’t a shred of self-pity in him. Despite the challenges he faces, Shawn is never down. Not depressed, discouraged, broken, or beaten. This kid has grit. Determination. A solid grip on his own worth.

Where does it come from? Mom, sometimes. A few others who see Shawn’s value and give him a hand along his path. A personal, hard-wired toughness that lets him see past the life he is living it to the life he wants — and for which he is willing to work. Mostly, it is Shawn’s own sharp intelligence which enables him to understand his world. It lets him trust his judgment without bogging down in unearned guilt. He makes smart decisions.

It’s a great story — and it’s far from over.

About the author

BAS Author logo stamp 2015Inspired by nature and human nature, author Bette A. Stevens is a retired elementary and middle school teacher, a wife, mother of two and grandmother of five. Stevens lives in Central Maine with her husband on their 37-acre farmstead where she enjoys writing, gardening, walking and reveling in the beauty of nature. She advocates for children and families, for childhood literacy and for the conservation of monarch butterflies (milkweed is the only plant that monarch caterpillars will eat).

Bette A. Stevens is the author of award-winning picture book AMAZING MATILDA; home/school resource, The Tangram Zoo and Word Puzzles Too!; and PURE TRASH, the short story prequel to DOG BONE SOUP.

Categories: Book Review, Books, Fiction, Literature, Writing

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12 replies

  1. Reblogged this on Bette A. Stevens, Maine Author and commented:
    An insightful review by Marilyn Armstrong.


  2. You know I grew up poor but I didn’t realize it until I got to highschool age because my mother was so good at taking care of our needs. She was a stay at home mom who cooked 3 meals a day, washed our clothes and hung them on a clothesline in the back yard to dry. Our clothes for school mostly came from the St. Vincent DePaul Store just down the street from our home. That’s one of many Catholic charities providing decent 2nd hand stuff for those who couldn’t afford better. We were always clean, well fed & never wore tattered clothing. In many ways we were rich. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Garry grew up poor too and he says the same thing. But not everyone’s parents are as dedicated … or as good at making poverty “work.” And rural poverty is different. There isn’t any St. Vincent de Paul or Salvation Army. Rural poverty leaves many fewer choices.

      Liked by 1 person

      • There were 3 stores within 100 feet of my back door, St. Vincent DePaul, Harter’s Hobby Shop & Army surplus Goods. I loved all three.

        Liked by 1 person

        • The advantage of not living out in the boondocks.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Dear Marilyn,

            Thank you is hardly enough to say for your insightful and encouraging (to me as a writer) review of DOG BONE SOUP. Boondocks or city street–yesteryear or 2015–poor kids are often voiceless and vulnerable. My sincere hope is that readers will not only realize how fortunate they have been on their own journeys through life, but be able to grasp an awareness that they can make a difference to the children in their own world, one relationship at a time. All kids need and deserve to have caring adults to love them unconditionally, encourage them in their daily walk and help them visualize a bright future that they can envision. Many of our children are lacking still. We live in a society that often pretends to love children, yet, when face-to-face with a child who does not meet our great expectations disappoints us, we turn and walk away or gossip. We say that ‘With all the government programs, kids don’t go hungry today’. Not true. How do I know this? I’ve taught in grades four through eight in rural and city schools. Oh, there are school breakfast programs and lunch programs that were not available in the 1950s. And, yes, there are many loving adults out there making a difference one child at a time, but there are more than 16 million children in America living below the poverty line today. Kids whose parents are too busy juggling multiple jobs just to stay above water to have time to invest in their kids. I believe that each and every child deserves a shot at the American Dream. Before getting my teaching degree, I spent two hours a week for two years volunteering at a local (in the boondocks) school, mentoring several third grade students who were considered behavior problems. What is mentoring? Spending one-on-one time (withing the classroom work group setting) with an individual student who is struggling. The results? I was enriched by the experience and inspired to pursue a degree in education. Did I grow up poor? No. But I’ve witnessed poverty’s aftermath in children around me for decades and I know that caring adults can and do make a difference.

            Thanks so much for featuring DOG BONE SOUP on SERENDIPITY, Marilyn. And for inviting me rant and rave away in your TALK TO ME! invite.


            • Thanks Bette. It was not all that long ago that Garry and I were patrons of the local food bank because our money would not stretch to feed us through a month. It’s interesting who you meet shopping at the Salvation Army or picking up groceries at the food bank. People are proud, but hunger trumps pride. I’m glad we no longer need the help, but there’s a lot of poverty in places where it isn’t necessarily obvious. In the country, it hides in plain sight.

              I really loved your book. I was trying to find a way to explain what made it so special without sounding sappy. It’s the spareness of your prose that I think makes it so good. And the lack of excessive sentimentality. You’ve got a protagonist with every reason to suffer from low self-esteem, to wallow in self-pity, but he doesn’t. He has a pretty good self-esteem. He doesn’t have an inflated ego, but he’s nobody’s patsy, either. He’s smart and a bit tough. He can see what’s going on and understand. Perceptive . Motivated. He’ll be an officer AND a gentleman.

              I posted it on Amazon, too, by the way.

              Hugs my friend. This is a book I wanted to read. I merely had to wait for you to write it 😉

              Liked by 1 person

              • Thanks so much, Marilyn. Your support and encouragement always manage make my day. I’ve just reblogged your review on my blog. Have great week and let’s hope we get to enjoy some sun and warmth (above freezing, please Lord). Hope your three little trees are on the mend. ❤


    • Rich indeed, Bob. In the things that count! Thanks so much for sharing. 🙂


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