Friday, July 03, 2020

American Dog

Shotz, Jennifer Li. Poppy
April 7th 2020 by HMH Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Hannah moves from Michigan to Northern California, and struggles with the transition. Her parents are very busy, and her younger sister and twin brothers take a lot of time. When a neighbor who has a dog needs help walking her because of recent surgery, Hannah is glad to step in. Poppy is a pit bull, so people shy away from her, and Hannah, with a port wine birthmark on her face, knows what it is like to have people react to one's physical appearance. Poppy has the exuberance of a puppy, but is very sweet natured. When neighbor Sophia is training her new poodle, Hannah decides that she can take the time to train Poppy. It's hard going, and Sophia doesn't make it any easier. There are lots of bumps in the road, and it gets a little easier when Poppy's owner's granddaughter is in town. Poppy runs away frequently, destroys two different dog cakes at two events, and Hannah fears that the dog will never be trained enough for her owner to keep her. Will she be able to get Poppy to behave well enough to stay?
Strengths: This was a fantastic middle grade novel. It was just the right length, had great characters, lots of action and adventure, and a compelling dog! I can't think of any other books with a character with a noticeable birthmark, and Hannah's self consciousness was treated just right. I loved that her family was intact but very busy. Poppy's exploits are the real draw here, and Shotz's work is very popular in my library. There look to be four of these books so far, all stand alones! So excited for these!
Weaknesses: I felt like Poppy ran away a few too many times, but then I am dealing with my tiny, elderly Sylvie, so I might just have had a hard time imagining a dog getting away!
What I really think: Purchasing all of these, and SO glad they are stand alones! They will get so much more use when students don't have to read a series.

Shotz, Jennifer Li. Brave
April 7th 2020 by HMH Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Dylan is looking forward to a boring time of it in San Antonio, Texas, since he really doesn't want to hang out with his best friend, Jaxon, anymore. Even though they've been friends forever, Jaxon has started to do risky things like throw water balloons at cars, and Dylan doesn't want to get involved. His dad is deployed, and he doesn't want to add to his mother's stress. When he finds a stray dog in need of help, however, he brings the dog home. The first thing Brave does is to chew up his mother's new couch, but when they take the dog to a shelter, they find that it is at capacity due to a recent hurricane. Dylan fosters the dog, but has to try to train him. Luckily, he comes across a classmate who lives on a nearby farm (whose name I can't remember, and my e reader isn't working again), and she offers to help train him if Dylan helps her clean up the hurricane debris. Dylan enjoys both working and training the dog, and has to find the courage to sit with his new friend and stay away from Jaxon. He also has to convince his mother that Brave is a dog that they should keep, despite his energy.
Strengths: This was just about perfect for a middle grade novel. Kids doing things, realistic problems, lots of action. I also enjoyed the friend drama, which we don't see nearly often enough with boys. The covers alone will sell these books, but the stories are brilliantly constructed and a joy to read. The information about particular breeds of dogs is fascinating as well.
Weaknesses: I feel like the adventure in the rain with the flash flooding has been done in another one of Shotz's books, but my students won't care.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, and can't wait for the next two, which come out October 6th 2020.

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