A reprise of the 2013 adult book of the same name, now for young readers.
When author Warren gets a German shepherd puppy, she wants a dog that will lie under her desk quietly as her former dog, the gentle Zev, did. So she is horrified to discover that puppy Solo is a “jackass”—a no-manners, bullying, uncontrollable bundle of energy. But Warren loves research, and her investigations lead her to a group of people who train dogs to sniff out missing dead people—a task it seems Solo’s personality traits are tailor-made for. Warren details the training she and Solo undergo to achieve certification, and she does a commendable job of conveying to readers the perseverance needed to achieve goals. The narrative flow isn’t seamless, though, containing odd, jerky segues. Additionally, despite the promise of the subtitle, the story is heavily focused on the use of dogs in law enforcement and war, which becomes both tedious and a downer. The machismo culture subtly filters into the narrative (“Teaching him to not be a wimp helped me not be a wimp”), which gives it all a dated feel. Sidebars offer occasional adjunct information, more or less successfully (DNA, physiology of smell), and there are plenty of black-and-white photos of dogs, trainers, and handlers (all the humans seem to be white). The lasting impression, however, is one of human aggression, not the dog’s amazing nose.
Misses the mark. (Nonfiction. 10-14)