In a tale that will have readers begging for closure, brother and sister are pitted against each other in a contest to get the pet of their dreams: Otto wants a dog; Lexi, a cat.
According to the steep terms their mother sets, the first one to make $500 throughout the month of March wins. Otto narrates in an authentic kid voice—oblivious and self-centered—earning many laughs if not cash in the beginning with his bumbling efforts. Luckily, he has his best friend, business-savvy Malcolm, to help him brainstorm and get organized. Indeed, readers will come away with great ideas on how to make money, plus information about business skills such as accounting, marketing and time management. Too bad Otto proves to be so frustratingly obtuse. The plot begins to stretch thin despite numerous side dramas such as his guilt over stealing some of his sister’s money, a friendship in peril, declining grades and the threatened loss of a coveted position on the soccer team. After another, more serious mishap due to his carelessness, Otto realizes he’s lost, has an honest conversation with Lexi and gives her his earnings. Although this makes for a tidy ending, Otto’s sudden perspicacity and change of heart feel unconvincing.
Despite its flaws, children desperate for a pet may dig in. (Fiction. 8-12)