Last Christmas, 11-year-old Mark Federman received A Dog’s Life: Autobiography of a Stray, by Ann M. Martin, as a gift. His foster mother, Cristina Skillin-Federman, thought he’d like it because “he really loves animals.”
Fast forward to this year, when, as part of NPR’s “In Character” series, fifth-graders at his school (Isaac Dickson Elementary in Ashville, N.C.) wrote about imaginary characters they most admired, and recorded their essays at the local public radio station. When it came time for Mark to select his imaginary character, he knew exactly who to chose: Squirrel, the narrator of A Dog’s Life. www.scholastic.com/dogslife/  As a puppy, Squirrel had been separated from her mother and brother; over the years, she had known longing and abandonment as well as comfort and kindness, and in the book, she tells how she found her way.
Mark entered the North Carolina social service system four years ago, and in that time, had been in nine foster homes. And, like Squirrel’s, Mark’s story has a happy ending. The Federmans have adopted both Mark and his younger brother, and are in the process of adopting his older brother as well.