“Christmas With Tucker”

By Greg Kincaid. Crown Publishers. $15.99.


Family values, a “dog of a lifetime” and a close-knit Kansas farm community combine for an inspiring  tale you won’t soon forget.


George McCray, a 12-year-old who loses his father – “the sentinel rock at the top of the hill from which I {George} could take my bearing even in the stormiest of weather —  in a farm accident, is left to live with his beloved grandparents on a Kansas dairy farm, after his mother and sisters relocate in Minnesota near his mother’s parents in order for her to find work.


Young George quickly comes of age with a farm-work ethic that plays with his emotions, and at times wishes he was in Minnesota, too. Adding to his frustration is an alcoholic neighbor, Frank Thorne, a childhood friend of his father, who owns a neglected Irish setter that’s chained outside and starved for attention.  Upon discovering the dog’s plight, George’s dislike for Thorne intensifies.


But when Thorne is jailed, the McCrays reluctantly inherit Tucker, who quickly endears himself to the entire family. But the roller-coaster of emotions takes a dramatic downward curve when Thorne returns and wants the dog back.


During one of the worst Cherokee County, Kansas, winters ever with snowfall and ice, George is called upon to assist his ill grandfather with local road maintenance and is recognized by all for his work.  At that point, his rocky relationship with Thorne takes a total reversal when the neighbor saves his life as the youngster attempts to rescue several cows that fell through the ice on a pond.


In the process, George leans an important life lesson – that rushing to judge another seldom works in anyone’s favor.


An empowering family Christmas follows when George’s mother and sisters arrive from Minnesota believing George would be accompanying them home in a few days. A special gift sculpted by Grandpa McCray, a new family member, a decision that would affect the remainder of George’s life and a first Christmas without his father cast a tough realism on this spirited, but simplified, portrait.


Kincaid’s characters radiate warmly on a chilly landscape while offering a unique lens on self worth, healing and personal growth.