76 pages 2 hours read

Phyllis Reynolds Naylor


Fiction | Novella | Middle Grade | Published in 1991

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Character Analysis

Marty Preston

Eleven-year-old Marty Preston is the protagonist of the novel and lives in rural, West Virginia. He enjoys his independence, rambling the woods, and observing the wildlife around him. Marty has a sensitive nature and cannot stand to see animals killed or hurt. He aspires to be a vet—or a vet’s assistant since veterinary school would be too expensive—because he loves animals. Marty believes in the value of all God’s creatures, telling Dara Lynn, “Even snakes got the right to live” (51). Marty also loves his family. Marty recognizes that his family, while not “rock poor,” struggles to get by. Marty respects his parents’ teachings and his religious faith. Except for occasional loneliness and a long-held desire for a dog, Marty is happy with his life.

The arrival of Shiloh shakes Marty’s world, opening his eyes to the issue of animal abuse, awakening his sense of justice, and causing him to reevaluate his belief system. Marty has a strong sense of what is right and wrong. He soon discovers, however, that morality is not so clear cut, and there are shades of gray between what is black and white. Determined to save Shiloh, Marty must make decisions that go against what he has been taught is “right.