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Young Readers

Nothing Wrong With a Three-Legged Dog By Graham McNamee Delacorte 128 pp., $14.95 , Ages 9-12

Welcome to the world of jello cubes and limp French fries, bullies and detention, and characters like Toothpick, Blob, Hairy Larry, and Zebra. With his second novel, "Nothing Wrong with a Three-Legged Dog," Graham McNamee delivers an off-beat, sweet story sure to please those trekking back to school.

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Ten-year-old Keath is absolutely obsessed with dogs, but his dad's allergies prevent Keath from being the dog owner he aspires to be. (Actually he wants to be a golden retriever when he grows up.)

Keath's biggest bummer is Toothpick, the bully who regularly picks on him because he's one of the few white kids at school. The kids call Keath names like Whitey, Vanilla, or Mayonnaise, and his best friend, Lynda, is called Zebra "because her mother is black and her father is white."

Keath and Lynda forget about the taunting as soon as Lynda's dad meets them after school with a pack of dogs he cares for while their owners work. They eventually take Lynda's three-legged beagle to a special dog show where some dogs use wagons to get around and others have their own guide dogs.

These dream-come-true experiences, as well as escalating conflicts with Toothpick, help Keath face up to his long-overdue visit to his grandma, who is ill. The world may not be as gentle as it seemed when he built airplane models with "Gran," but Keath eventually learns to cope with his and others' differences.

"Nothing Wrong with a Three-legged Dog" is a lighthearted, endearing book in which every dog has his day. It's also a good reminder that it's important to look beyond appearances.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society