Singleton, Linda Joy. The Curious Cat Spy Club
March 1st 2015 by Albert Whitman & Company
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Kelsey feels a bit awkward at her school, so when she helps Becca Morales with a zorse (zebra and horse) that has run away when Becca is taking it from her family's animal sanctuary to the vet, she hopes that they can become friends. As they near the vet, Kelsey hears kittens in a dumpster, and with the help of geeky Leo. they manage to get them out. Kelsey's family has had to move into an apartment after her dad has lost his job, Leo's parents don't allow animals, and even Becca's mom says they have too many, so the three decide to hide the kittens near Becca's house in a shed until there is an animal charity meet-and-greet where the kittens might have a chance to be adopted. They pool their resources and get the kittens settled, but then Kelsey finds a receipt in the bag the kittens were thrown away in, and decides to investigate, since she's always been a big fan of Harriet the Spy. Becca uses her wiles on a clerk at the store, who indicates that one of the items, koi food, on the list means that the cat abuser most likely lives in a posh neighborhood. The three go to investigate, and find several people who look guilty, but they also start to notice that a lot of pets are being kidnapped and returned soon after for reward money, usually by the same three people. Their uneasy friendship has some bumpy moments, but between Kelsey perseverance, Leo's powers of deduction and tech smarts, and Becca's knowledge of animals, they manage to track down the pet nappers to an unlikely pair.
Strengths: This is a decent middle grade mystery, with a slightly diverse cast (I thought for a bit that Kelsey might be African-American, but only because she had a sister named Kenya. I liked that the character could have been any ethnicity.) I also liked that there was a boy in the group. I wish the words in the title were not bright pink, because it would be easier to get boys to read it that way.
Weaknesses: This topic has been done, from Weber's I Met a Boy I Used to Know (1967) to Margolis' Girl's Best Friend (2010), yet I can't think of any pet napping stories that I've ever read in the news. The children don't really act in a particularly safe manner while investigating.
What I really think: I was a bit irritated by Leo's geekiness, and there was something about Kelsey's intense longing to be Becca's friend that was just... uncomfortable. Still, I have a lot of students who want mysteries, so I'll probably buy this.
Payton, Belle. Even the Score (It Takes Two #5)
January 20th 2015 by Simon Spotlight
Ava finally feels like she is part of the football team, and gets a change to do more than place kick. To her chagrin, however, she finds that another player, Owen, has a crush on her which she doesn't reciprocate. To make things even worse, his football is suffering because she distracts him. She has to find a way to get him UNinterested in her so the drama stops. At the same time, Alex is running into trouble reallocating student council money... she wants to give it to the drama club because their prop room was water damaged, but her Texas school is so into sports that most students want it to go to football. Add to this a father distracted by coaching high school football and a mother distracted by her pottery business taking off, and you have a pleasant middle grade novel.
Strengths: Ava and Alex are both different and well developed. The girl-playing-football-in-Texas plot is brilliant. Ava's attempts to get Owen to NOT be interested in her are funny. Great length, and love the covers. Strong family where everyone is alive. Hooray!
Weaknesses: Really? Ava isn't interested in Owen? I had so little luck with romance in school that I just couldn't believe her attempts to turn him away!
What I really think: People need to read these faster so they can be checked out more! A girl lost the first in the series for a couple of months, so I couldn't get any other readers started on it!