Friday, September 25, 2020

American Dogs

48946802Shotz, Jennifer Li. Chestnut (American Dog #3)

October 6th 2020 by HMH Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Meg lives with her family, including two older siblings, on a Christmas tree farm. The family business is barely keeping the family afloat financially, so when Meg gets a new coat for her birthday, it's a big deal. What she would really like is a dog, but her parents have said "absolutely not". When she finds an injured puppy on the farm, she and her friend Colton (who has several dogs) tend to the dog's paw and keep him in an unused barn while he heals. Meg wants to tell her parents, but first tries to figure out a way to soften them up, trying to find ways to earn money for his upkeep. She names the dog Chestnut, and Colton informs her that he is a Plott hound, a breed that is often used for tracking and hunting. Chestnut is very anxious, especially about being separated from Meg. Meg does manage to make a little bit of money selling Christmas tree ornaments when she is running the register at the tree farm, and also tries to be really helpful to her parents. Eventually, however, they find out about the dog and make Meg turn Chestnut over to the local shelter. When a large number of trees are stolen from the farm, Meg thinks that this is the chance for her and Chestnut to prove that having a dog would be helpful for the farm. Will the two be able to find the thieves?
Strengths: There are certainly more children in economically fragile situations than children who have had a parent die, and relatively few books. Running a tree farm would certainly be precarious, and the family situation is well represented. I appreciated that the father actually liked dogs and didn't want another dog because he loved a previous one so much! Colton's experience with dogs is helpful, and I always like the information about the breeds at the end of these books.
Weaknesses: Meg makes a LOT of really dangerous choices that made me highly uncomfortable. Her logic is absolutely true to how middle schoolers think and what they might do, but since her actions put both her and Chestnut at risk, they were hard to read about.
What I really think: I will still buy the entire set of these, but this wasn't my favorite because of Meg's poor choices. Students won't really think about this, nor are they likely to repeat the actions.

Shotz, Jennifer Li. Star (American Dog #4)
October 6th 2020 by HMH Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Julian struggles in school; even though he was diagnosed with dyslexia and is given accommodations, he feels that he is impossibly behind. Other kids in the class make fun of him, and he would rather draw than make the effort to read. It doesn't help that his older brother is a really good student. When Julian gets a Saturday detention again, he finds himself spending it with the principal. The principal notices that Julian is struggling with his reading and not making much progress, so calls Julian's mother with a proposition-- can Julian go to the local animals shelter and spend his detention helping out? Julian has always wanted a dog, so he's even okay with working with Bryan, who goes to school with him and seems to be good at everything. There is a dog, Star, who has come to the shelter from a house on Julian's street. Star's owner died, and the dog is afraid of everyone and everything. The two boys start to work with Star, who takes a special shine to Julian. Julian also finds out that Bryan also has dyslexia, and the two start to do some of their homework together, and this helps Julian out a lot. When the shelter runs into financial trouble, Julian is afraid that his parents won't let him adopt Star. He has long collected treasure maps in the area, and he and Bryan decide that they will try to find the treasure to help out the shelter. This turns out not to be a great decision, and some unfortunate things happen. Julian's parents are surprisingly supportive, even though they do ground him from some activities. Will there be something that can save the shelter?
Strengths: I love that Julian is shown to struggle with dyslexia; there are a lot of students who do, and not much in the literature about them. It helps that Shotz's books are all fairly shot, with large type, so my emerging readers really like them. The principal is great, and it's good to see children involved in community service and in making new friends. The details about training a deaf dog are fantastic, and there's breed information at the back of the book.
Weaknesses: The scene where Bryan and Julian go out to look for treasure seems out of character for them, but is similar to the "children go out and get lost in storm" scenes in many middle grade books. This familiarity is something young readers really like, though.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing this whole series. All of this author's books are hugely popular in my library, and the covers are fantastic!
Ms. Yingling

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the in depth reviews. These covers are definitely appealing! I love the idea of a character living on a Christmas Tree farm. That adds a fun element! My little sister would enjoy these books.