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Book Club Kits: The Summer of Riley

Alamance County Public Libraries offer Book Club Kits for check out to area book clubs. Each kit contains 10 copies of a book and a reading guide.

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Eve Bunting

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Book Summary

The ultimate boy and dog story. Heartwarming and inspiring story as a boy fights to keep his dog alive. For 8 - 12 year olds.

Eleven-year-old William gets his dog after a stormy period in his life; his parents have separated, dad has just got engaged and then his grandfather dies without any warning. Though Riley is no substitute for Grandpa, he is a wonderful dog. Riley behaves impeccably, he comes when called; doesn't make puddles; sits up straight in the car and doesn't tear up the flowerbeds. He is, in fact, the perfect dog. UNTIL one day he goes beserk with a neighbour's beloved old racehorse. Local law states that any animal that chases livestock must be put to sleep. Suddenly William stands to lose something else that is close to him. Riley is taken away,...

William and best-friend Grace start a campaign to save Riley.They get him a lawyer and get an action group together to raise money for his defence.The Press latch on to the story. Another action group is formed by the horse owner's friend and it's their intention NOT to save Riley. Polls are taken and the electorate are undecided. The final day of Riley's life dawns and it's going to take a miracle to save him. But William never gives up. Through sheer determination and hours surfing the internet, William comes up with the answer and the novel ends happily.

An inspiring novel as William struggles to fight for what he believes in and about learning to accept life's changes.

This is a hugely satisfying novel with a real feel-good factor.The pace is maintained to the end and it is a riveting read, particularly for animal-loving children.

Discussion Questions

  1. Did you like the book? Why or why not?   What was your favorite or least favorite part?
  2. William is trying to save his dog. Peachie is trying to protect her horse. Do you think their feel the same way about their pets? How are these two people the same? How do they differ?
  3. William feels his father does not care about him and his mother. Do you think William is right? Why or why not?
  4. Was Peachie right to call animal control and report Riley? Why or why not?
  5. Describe Monk's Hill. How is this setting important to the story?
  6.  Do you have a pet? Do you know the local laws governing pet ownership? If so, what are some?
  7. What is the job of animal control? What is the Humane Society?
  8.  Does any animal frighten you? Why?
  9.  Have you had an honest disagreement with friend? How did you resolve your differences?
  10. William was not able to keep Riley, but he saved his life and found him a new home. Why does William consider this a happy ending? Do you agree?

About the Author

The author of more than 100 books for young readers, Eve Bunting was born in the small village of Maghera in Northern Ireland. In 1958, she immigrated to the United States, where she has lived ever since, raising three children and — more recently — welcoming four grandchildren. Bunting began writing after moving to California, where she enrolled in a community college creative writing course. Her first published story, The Two Giants, was a retelling of a folktale she knew from her childhood. “I thought everybody in the world knew that story, and when I found they didn't — well, I thought they should.”

Bunting's interest in just about everything, and her confidence in wanting to share her thoughts and experiences with children, has led to her incredible career as the creator of a wide variety of books. She has written picture books, novels, and even some nonfiction. She never shies away from addressing difficult issues, including racial prejudice, death, troubled families, and war; at the same time, her work is infused with hope and beauty. Her numerous awards and honors include the Golden Kite Award from the Society of Children's Book Writers, the PEN Los Angeles Center Literary Award for Special Achievement in Children's Literature, and the Edgar, given by the Mystery Writers of America.

When Bunting isn't writing, she enjoys reading and playing golf. She lives in Pasadena, California, with her husband. (From