This story is set at Karekare, in 1890. It opens with Joseph, a 10 year old, visiting Old Miri to show her his new crutch which his dad has made for him, to replace his old one. She is a healer, and she knows how to use plants and herbs to help people, and animals. From Miri’s place Joseph heads down to the beach, where his big brothers tote him across the river. He can’t scramble about the rocks with them, but as he dozes on the sand, gazing out to sea, he spots a big black dog, washed up on the beach. It is barely alive, but Joseph rescues it, and with his brothers’ help takes it home. Alas, the dog is injured, and his father won’t let him keep it as a pet, but with the help of Miri, the dog recovers, ‘though one of its legs is permanently disabled. And then, Joseph’s big brother Dan comes up with a brilliant idea that will enable Joseph to keep the dog.
One of the things that I like about this book is that although Joseph has a disability, and the disability is part of the story, it isn’t the focus of the story. Instead, it just… is. Joseph and his family and Miri all work on finding ways to enable him to do the things that kids do, neither downplaying the difficulties that the disability causes, nor acting as though somehow the disability negates his being.
The illustrations are softly drawn, full of blues and greens and purples. And full of waves and wind, as befits a west coast beach.