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Constance Marie Gotsch

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Belle's Star
by Constance Marie Gotsch  Illustrated by John Cogan 

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Publisher:  Artemesia Publishing ISBN-10:  2009006246 Type: 


Copyright:  2009 ISBN-13:  9781932926019

Artemesia Publishing
Artemesia Publishing

When Big Toby and his father, Bonehead throw Belle out of their truck at a convenience store, 12 year-old Darcy and her Auntie Ellen rescue the frightened puppy. They show Belle kindness and offer her a life with love and security. However Belle thinks no human is worth trusting. Darcy’s family and their pets, including a cat, try to show Belle otherwise. Will she realize that though she cannot change her past, she can put it aside and build a future full of happiness? When Bonehead and Big Toby reappear and threaten Darcy, the girl’s survival depends on the choice Belle makes.

Written in the first person from a dog’s point of view, Belle’s Star empowers young people who have escaped abuse and bullying to build new lives. Adventure and colorful characters help these children face painful issues, and find the strength to heal.

      A herding dog who knows nothing but abuse and neglect is dumped by her cruel owners, who do not need her.  She finds herself with Darcy, a spunky soccer-playing girl, and her Aunt Ellen. They show Belle kindness, but she has serious trust issues.
    Aunt Ellen’s cat and dog try to convince Belle trusting people is okay.  Because she begins to like these animals, Belle decides to hang around Ellen’s yard.  She also proves herself useful, herding Ellen’s dog out of the flower garden when he tries to dig there.  Just as she thinks she’s found an oka spot to live, Ellen’s husband, Jim, accidentally stomps on Belle’s paw. Terrified, she bites him. Bad choice.  The dog and cat tell her she could have stepped away from Jim.  Not fond of animals, he insists Belle go to the pound. Instead, Ellen sends her to Darcy’s house. Belle realizes her mistake, and resolves to do better when bullies come around.
    Belle likes Darcy’s mother,  but children have mistreated Belle, so she fears Darcy. Darcy’s puppy tries to convince Belle she’s safe. Belle falls asleep, too exhausted to argue.  Awakening from a nightmare, she finds her teeth clamped on Darcy’s ankle. Belle again fears she will go to the pound for sure this time, since she has mishandled herself again.  But to her surprise,  Darcy apologizes for startling her. Belle begins to like Darcy.
    Darcy’s dad arrives. When he treats Belle kindly, she learns that not all men are cruel.  She begins liking Darcy’s whole family, and tries hard to get along with them.
    Darcy and her parents take Belle to the park, where they meet Ellen,  Jim, and pets. Belle is thrilled to see Ellen and the other animals, but she refuses to go near Jim.        
    The adults settle on a bench to talk. Belle and the animals wander to the lake, with Darcy.  Belle’s former owners show up.  The mean spirited pair intimidate Darcy and steal Belle.  Belle escapes, and with her friends, devises a plan using her herding skills, to rescue Darcy.
    When the plan succeeds, Belle realizes she can handle anything--even Jim--as he finally gives her a pat.

Belle’s Star Connie Gotsch
Chapter 1

The Terrible Truck Ride

Would he kill me? I wouldn’t put it past Bonehead. He reeked of anger, a stench
like burned pepper. He’d smelled like that since after lunch, when Mrs. Bonehead beat
him at a card game.
He was also driving his truck funny. It drifted back and forth, instead of barreling
straight down the highway. When it veered, he clutched the steering wheel and muttered.
I couldn’t catch what he said, but each time he opened his mouth, his breath stank
like rotten fruit. When he smelled like that and was mad, anybody nearby better run,
especially a dog, like me.
Not that I could. I was trapped on the truck seat between him and his boy, Big
Toby. If I moved, one or the other would pound me.
Big Toby burped, breath stinking like he had a sour stomach. Big Toby always
had a sour stomach, because he had one mood -- bad.
He also ate nonstop, like some caterpillar gathering energy to spin a cocoon.
That’s why his cousins called him ‘Big Toby,’ I guess. Right now, he gulped popcorn
from a bag, then slurped cola from a bottle, as Bonehead steered toward town.
I listened to Big Toby chomp-chomping. The noise was gross, because he chewed
with his mouth open. Still the sound made me hungry. I hadn’t eaten in a long time. My
tongue slipped out of my mouth and slid over my chops.
“You’re not gettin’ any, you stupid mutt,” Big Toby said with his mouth full. He
thrust the bottle at my head. I flattened myself on the seat. The bottle brushed my ear, but
didn’t hurt me.
Bonehead swatted my shoulder, then glared with blood shot eyes. “Don’t even
think of sneaking food under my nose.” He grabbed some of Big Toby’s popcorn.
Diving to the truck’s floor, I scrunched under the seat. Bonehead hated anyone
who outsmarted him.
Big Toby stuffed more kernels into his mouth, until his cheeks looked like they
would burst. White specks spewed from his lips, clinging to his face. Against his olive
skin, the debris looked like the scabs ticks left when they bite.
He swiped at the mess with his forearm. Then, unable to stuff anything more into
his mouth, pulled a box from his pocket, and began punching its buttons.
Oh-oh. That box was also a game. If Big Toby didn’t play it well, his mood would
get worse than it already was. He’d wallop anything within reach. I sighed. Why were he
and Bonehead so mean?
The box jingled. Little animals danced on it. He pushed more buttons. The box
made a zapping sound. The animals disappeared in a white flash. Big Toby chuckled.
Was he killing them in his play? Probably. His dull green eyes reminded me of
weed-choked water, where everything had died. Love and respect did not live in that
gaze. I had the feeling he’d kill anything, if he got the chance.
I lay still, wishing animals didn’t understand People Language better than jerks
like Bonehead and Big Toby thought we could.

Professional Reviews

Review by Joan Joan Schweighardt, author of GUDRUN'S TAPESTRY
The narrator in BELLE'S STAR is Belle, a smallish, reddish, farm dog bred to herd cattle and hence referred to as a "heeler." We learn right away, in this 125-page book written for children ages 10 through 12, that Belle is perceptive, curious, and nervous in new situations-which is to say that kids who buy the book will relate to her immediately. Moreover, she is an awesome storyteller, which is no less than one would expect from a creation of award-winning novelist like Connie Gotsch.

Belle was badly mistreated on the farm where her life began. When we meet her, the farmer and his nasty son are in the process of taking her for a one-way ride in their truck. They kick her out at a gas station and hope never to see her again. But she is rescued by a girl named Darcy and Darcy's aunt Ellen, who happen to be at the station and are witness to what the reader hopes will be Belle's final incident of abuse.

Belle is adorable, and the reader understands that her rescuers are bound to fall in love with her and try to help her out. The suspense comes from wondering whether or not Belle will decide to accept their help-or even recognize it as such. Having known nothing but bullying during her life on the farm, it will take more than a bath and a few doggie treats for Belle to learn to trust. And ultimately it will take an incident in which Darcy is threatened for Belle to learn her first lesson in loyalty.

Connie Gotsch has succeeded in creating a world from a dog's point of view. Buildings are "dens," rooms are "burrows," doorways are "holes," and people are described more often by their smell than how they look. Sounds and textures are also amplified. There are other dogs and even a cat in the story, and their friendly and sometimes foolish communication is reminiscent of the animals in the 1993 hit movie "Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey."

BELLE'S STAR is a page-turner, full of adventure and snappy dialogue and even a subplot concerning Darcy and her uncle. But it is also a book full of valuable lessons. Young (and older) readers will learn some good tips about how to treat animals, which is sure to come in handy especially for those who opt to adopt pets from shelters. But there are also some good tips about how people should treat one another. Great illustrations within and a beautiful painting of Darcy and Belle on the cover round out a wonderful reading experience.

Editorial Review
Belle knows how it feels to be 'treated like a dog' since she is a dog - abused and neglected by some really bad people. After she is rescued by Darcy, things improve but she has a lot to learn. Belle speaks to the heart of all those kids who hate people who are mean to dogs - and people - as only a dog can wriggle its way into the center of a human. Read her story. Sit. Stay. Love. --Gwynne Spencer, Free Range Writer

Even today there are few books written that empower girls the way I like to see it done. Belle's Star by Connie Gotsch achieves where others fail. --Carolyn Howard-Johnson, award-winning author of fiction, poetry and how-to books for writers.

Even today there are few books written that empower girls the way I like to see it done. Belle's Star by Connie Gotsch achieves where others fail. --Carolyn Howard-Johnson, award-winning author of fiction, poetry and how-to books for writers.

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Reader Reviews for "Belle's Star"

Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado 2/28/2010
Sounds like a good read, Constance; congrats on your new book! :D

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