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"Let’s get this part over with – it’s no secret. My dog, Maxi, dies.” The opening sentence of Maxi’s Secrets gives the reader fair warning, but it doesn’t make Maxi’s death much easier to get through. Maxi, a deaf Great Pyranees puppy, helps Timminy, her boy, face the typical trials and tribulations of middle school – navigating friendships, dealing with bullies, moving to a new school. A diverse cast of characters includes a character that is blind and adopted, a physically handicapped friend, and of course, a deaf dog – Maxi’s disability is at the heart of the novel, and it softens the other characters’ diversity, making it less jarring for young readers. Like any book featuring a beloved animal, Maxi’s Secrets is a tearjerker – but I’m a little biased; we lost our beloved deaf cat, Mo, about a year ago, and Timminy and Maxi’s special relationship brought back ALL the feelings. The novel wasn’t all warm and fuzzy – Maxi’s lessons, a short moral at the end of each chapter, were sometimes cheesy and distracting. Also, while the vocab, reading level, and emotional ending make this book a good fit for fourth grade, I think that the juvenile language and voice would be more appealing to a younger reader. Would make a good read aloud for tough little animal lovers or kiddos dealing with the loss of a pet.