by McCall Hoyle (Author)

Reading Level: 4th − 5th Grade

An uplifting and poignant story about a former service beagle named Stella who must find the courage to overcome her fears and use her special nose to save a girl's life.

Ever since Stella was a puppy, she was trained to use her powerful beagle nose to sniff out chemicals used in explosives and warn her human handler in order to keep people safe. But during a routine security inspection, Stella is distracted and misses the scent of an explosive chemical. The sound of the blast is loud and scary. Stella survives but her handler--her best friend in the whole world--is gone. Stella blames herself, certain she's a bad dog.

Scared of loud noises, especially thunder and fireworks, Stella struggles with her anxiety and must be retired from being a service animal. Several families try to foster her, but sometimes Stella is so scared she howls or digs or tears things up with her teeth. She wonders if anyone will want to adopt her. An expert dog trainer, Esperanza, thinks she can help. It's Stella's last chance to prove she can be a good dog.

Stella has every reason to love her new family, especially the young human named Chloe who smells like chocolate chip cookies, newly cut grass, the pages of books, and something else--a strange chemical she can't quite identify. Chloe has epilepsy, and a chemical inside her body surges just before she has a seizure. Stella's nose makes the connection. But how can she warn Esperanza without her thinking it's just Stella's usual anxiety? How can she convince her new family that she can be a new kind of service dog and hopefully save Chloe's life?

Told from Stella's point of view, readers will experience life through a dog's eyes, ears, and, especially, her nose. Like Babe the pig or Ivan the gorilla, Stella the beagle is an extraordinary story for kids who love animals. An endearing novel of courage, compassion, friendship, and love.

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School Library Journal

Gr 3-7--Stella is a good dog, but she misses her old handler Connie and is having a hard time understanding where Connie went and why loud noises such as thunder and fireworks cause her to panic. Now, living with post-traumatic stress disorder, Stella sometimes does bad things that she can't control, like escaping from crates and digging. Because of this, she's convinced she's a bad dog who cannot change. Before Stella made her way to live with Esperanza, an expert dog trainer, and her daughter Cloe, she used to be a bomb-sniffing dog at the airport. She blames herself for Connie's death because Stella was distracted and missed the scent of an explosive device. Stella and Cloe are immediately drawn to each other, and through their relationship, Stella finds that she can still use her nose and be helpful. This tender novel from a dog's perspective will help readers understand the importance of animals in their lives. This empathetic read is also full of important themes and lessons for young readers--bravery, how to overcome fears, and that mistakes don't have to define us. VERDICT A heartfelt dog story that readers young and old will enjoy.--Alicia Kalan, The Northwest Sch., Seattle

Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"A traumatized working dog has one last chance after the death of her handler.

Stella, a bomb-sniffing beagle, has been in three foster homes since the death of her handler, Connie, in an explosion. Now she's got PTSD, and she panics at loud noises, fire, or being left alone. Unable to do anything for her, the humans plan to euthanize Stella until she receives a last-minute reprieve. An old friend of Connie's, a world-class dog trainer, decides to take on Stella's rehabilitation as a favor to her old friend. Through Stella's doggy point of view (usually, though not entirely, limited to what a dog could theoretically comprehend), readers are introduced to dog training with Esperanza and her 11-year-old daughter, Cloe. Esperanza and Cloe, who come from a Spanish-speaking family background, live in the country with other working dogs, a cat, and sheep. Perhaps in this rural environment Stella can finally recover. As her bond with Cloe grows, Stella learns more about what Cloe's sometimes-strange smells mean when she first witnesses Cloe have an epileptic seizure. Stella's narration duly reports all the human conversations she doesn't understand; combined with Stella's somewhat anthropomorphized trauma recovery, Cloe's hopes and fears come through clearly. There's plenty of training process to please lovers of realistic dog books.

Dog training, trauma recovery, and just enough urgency to keep it moving: a quiet pleasure."

— Kirkus
McCall Hoyle
McCall Hoyle is an award-winning author and teacher librarian. She writes heartfelt books for kids of all ages and believes one of the best ways to spread hope is by writing about the special bond between dogs and their humans. When McCall isn't writing or teaching, you can find her training one of her four-legged friends for agility, obedience, or dock diving in the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains she calls home.

You can learn more about her at or visit her on Twitter @McCallHoyle or on Facebook or Instagram @McCallHoyleBooks.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Shadow Mountain
Publication date
September 06, 2022
BISAC categories
JUV039060 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Friendship
JUV039050 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Emotions & Feelings
JUV002070 - Juvenile Fiction | Animals | Dogs
JUV015020 - Juvenile Fiction | Health & Daily Living | Diseases, Illnesses & Injuries
Library of Congress categories
Human-animal relationships
Farm life
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Beagle (Dog breed)
Animal fiction
Epileptic children
Texas Bluebonnet Master List
2022 - 2023

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