In the first of a new series, seventh-grader Kim combines her talent and enthusiasm for working with animals with her need to undertake a community service project for school.
She and her BFF, Sasha, are volunteering at a small local animal shelter. Kim’s vision for this experience is nearly spoiled when she discovers that Sasha’s new friend, Taylor, will be joining them, leaving her feeling “like a third wheel.” Taylor is described as “a tall girl with brown skin and a hundred little braids that ended in silver beads,” in contrast to floppy-haired white girls Kim and Sasha. Kim’s formulaic, jealousy-fueled struggles with the change in relationships are neatly, completely resolved when she uses her dog-whisperer skills to help Taylor deal with her fear of the larger animals, effectively eliminating that dog-eared conflict, but two others emerge. Kim struggles with her grades, threatening her work at the shelter, and more critically, the shelter is in financial trouble. Her scheme for an after-school dog club provides, improbably, the needed income stream, and her emerging sense of competence from navigating the bumps of a new business helps her out with schoolwork. Clunky back-story exposition, Kim’s unconvincing, authorial first-person voice, flat, predictable, and even stereotypical characters—Taylor’s dad is “famous” for his Southern-fried chicken and greens—all combine to create an unexceptional, vanilla-flavored outing. Book 2, When the Going Gets Ruff, publishes simultaneously.
Perhaps this effort will appeal to pet lovers. (Fiction. 9-12)