Scotto, Michael. Latasha and the Little Red Tornado
15 November 2011, Midlandia Press
Nominated for the Cybils by Andi Sibley
***SPOILER ALERT***Latasha and her mother live upstairs from their elderly landlady, Mrs. Okocho, who very kindly watches Latasha when her mother has to work. Her mother is a nurses' aide, and gets a new job, which means she is gone until 7:30 at night. This is a problem, because Latasha's dog, Ella, is still young and rambunctious, racing around the apartment and making a fair amount of noise... right on top of Mrs. Okocho's apartment! Latasha tries to train Ella, and finally comes up with a good plan. While she is not allowed to go to the park by herself (since she is 8), she may go with a neighbor boy, Ricky, and they can help Ella expend some of her energy. Latasha has other things to worry about-- she tries to help her mother around the house, and there is a reading competition at school that she's excited about. When she and Ricky have a fight, Latasha takes Ella to the park by herself, with disastrous consequences. Things work out in the end, and Latasha makes great strides in being more independent and responsible.
Strengths: This book was engaging and moved along at a good pace. The dynamics between Latasha, her mother, and Mrs. Okocho were realistic and interesting. This was a great dog story and included a lot of helpful information for dealing with dogs.
Weaknesses: I wish that Latasha had been 11 or 12. She wants her independence, but children can't really be left alone at the age of 8, and I wouldn't even have allowed mine to go to the park alone. The tension would have been understandable if Latasha were older. Also, Ella losing a leg might be too much for 8 year olds, although Ella recovers very nicely.