Woodrow, Allan. The Pet War
October 29th 2013, Scholastic Press
Otto really wants a dog. His older sister, Lexi, really wants a cat. Their mother really doesn't want either one, but tells the children that whoever can raise $500 can choose the pet. Both kids embark on a series of money making ventures. Otto doesn't fair very well-- he sells apples that his mother bought, but for less than she paid for them. He makes a disastrous batch of cookies. He puts together a dog walking business, but uses so much of his mother's ink printing flyers that he owes her money. Lexi seems to be fairing somewhat better, since she is tutoring (Otto struggles so much in school that this isn't an option for him) and making custom, glittery posters. Otto's dog walking works out fairly well, but he still has expensive mishaps, like one of the dog's he is walking stepping on a bottle and incurring $80 worth of vet bills. The two occasionally try to clean at their father's apartment, but even that doesn't go all that well. At one point, Otto is so jealous of his sister that he steals $20 from her room. In the end, both children are short of money and stressed by all of the work they are doing. Otto, feeling bad about stealing from his sister, gives her enough so that she can get a cat. Fluffernutter doesn't turn out to be too bad, and since their dad decides to buy a dog, everything works out.
Strengths: Awesome cover, and fun, timeless story. Otto and Lexi are both very realistic and believable, and they get along despite their differences. I also liked how this teaches that having animals is a lot of responsibility and expensive. Very pleasant read.
Weaknesses: Nothing earthshakingly original, but a very solid novel. I will look forward to other titles by this author, who also writes as Fowler DeWitt. This was SO much better than The Contagious Colors of Mumpley Middle School. Wow.
Seiple, Samantha. Byrd and Igloo: A Polar Adventure.
September 24th 2013, Scholastic Press
E ARC from Netgalley. com
This charming nonfiction book reads much like things I remember reading as a child; nonfiction, but with a definite slant toward the story. Well illustrated with period photos of Byrd as well as Igloo (ahhhh), this was a very nice overview of Byrd's youth and early traveling, as well as an account of his being sent a homeless dog right before his jaunt to the North Pole. Igloo also made the trip to the South Pole with Byrd, and there are charming pictures of him with penguins. While this is a bit fanciful, with accounts of Igloo being glad to see his favorite stuffed goat toy and being embarrassed to be seen wearing his custom made parka and snow boots, it is still a great record of a Man and His Dog. Well researched, with a great index and source notes, this was great fun, and made me cry just a little, since Igloo did not have a long life. Igloo's tomb stone says it all "He was a more than a friend."
I also liked this author's other title, Ghosts in the Fog.
Orr, Wendy. Discovered! A Beagle Named Bella.
March 19th 2013
by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
This is the 6th book in the Rainbow Street Shelter series but stands alone quite well. A young married couple adopts Bella, a beagle puppy who becomes destructive when she is left alone all day in their small apartment. Luckily, Tim's father, Matt, has just retired Sherlock, the beagle who works with him sniffing luggage at the airport and needs another puppy to train. Bella fits the bill, has something to occupy herself, and also has a loving family.
Strengths: I liked how this addressed that even the most loving family might not be the right fit for certain kinds of dogs. Even though this is a very easy read, I think that many of my students will find it interesting. At a 4.9 Accelerated Reader level, it's higher than Stockett's The Help (4.4).
Weaknesses: It really is a bit young for my students, but I sort of want to buy the whole series now!
Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts
and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday, with the Round Up this week at NC Teacher Stuff.