A charming novel about a troubled young dog owner that will appeal to readers of all ages.


A YA novel about two unlikely friends, their dogs, and the competitions that bring them and their community together.

As Manning’s (Hill Country Teacher, 1990) entertaining novel opens, Benny Neusner, a 14-year-old boy in Redding, Conn., is dealing with emotional issues stemming from his parents’ divorce. He’s enrolled at New Hope, a school for children with behavioral challenges, and works with his therapist, Dr. Kate, to learn to better handle his emotions. He also has a crush on Steffie, one of his classmates. During an evening walk alone one night, he discovers Bess Rutledge, a former champion breeder and dog-show contestant, in her barn delivering new puppies. This litter, Bess says, will be her last; she’s decided to close her legendary Umpawaug Kennels and give up on her dream of winning best in show at the famous Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Benny likes Bess’ dog McCreery, the puppies’ sire, and although Bess won’t give up her beloved pet, she does offer to give the boy the puppy of his choice from her final litter. He picks Breaker, a beautiful, brown male puppy that resembles McCreery. Bess agrees to let Benny keep Breaker at her house, since he’s not allowed to have a dog at his own. Soon Benny grows close to Bess’ adult son, David, and together, they plot to get Bess back in the ring. They eventually convince her to let Benny show Breaker at dog shows. Breaker does remarkably well, winning his first competition, and showing the dog becomes a form of therapy for Benny. Slowly but surely, both his confidence and Bess’ return, and the two decide together that they should take their dreams more seriously. Manning’s book is heartwarming and informative, and it offers an intriguing look at children who suffer from different behavioral issues. Benny’s crush, Steffie, is said to have Asperger’s syndrome, and Benny offers an elucidating description of his own emotional challenges: “How’d you like to have so many feelings inside they make your head swim?” The book also addresses the healing and therapeutic nature of dogs, and would likely be a great read for any dog lover.

A charming novel about a troubled young dog owner that will appeal to readers of all ages.

Pub Date: Jan. 29, 2014

ISBN: 978-0578136394

Page Count: 330

Publisher: Beltor

Review Posted Online: March 26, 2014

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A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.



In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.

In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.

A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004

ISBN: 978-1591940173

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Townsend Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013

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A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Mary's Song

From the Dream Horse Adventure Series series , Vol. 1

A novel tells the story of two spirited girls who set out to save a lame foal in 1952.

Mary, age 12, lacks muscle control of her legs and must use a wheelchair. Her life is constantly interrupted by trips with her widower father to assorted doctors, all of whom have failed to help her. Mary tolerates the treatments, hoping to one day walk unassisted, but her true passion involves horses. Possessing a library filled with horse books, she loves watching and drawing the animals at a neighboring farm. She longs to own one herself. But her father, overprotective due to her disability and his own lingering grief over Mary’s dead mother, makes her keep her distance. Mary befriends Laura, the emotionally neglected daughter of the wealthy neighboring farm owners, and the two share secret buggy rides. Both girls are attracted to Illusion, a beautiful red bay filly on the farm. Mary learns that Illusion is to be put down by a veterinarian because of a lame leg. Horrified, she decides to talk to the barn manager about the horse (“Isn’t it okay for her to live even if she’s not perfect? I think she deserves a chance”). Soon, Mary and Laura attempt to raise money to save Illusion. At the same time, Mary begins to gain control of her legs thanks to water therapy and secret therapeutic riding with Laura. There is indeed a great deal of poignancy in a story of a girl with a disability fighting to defend the intrinsic value of a lame animal. But this book, the first installment of the Dream Horse Adventure Series, would be twice as touching if Mary interacted with Illusion more. In the tale’s opening, she watches the foal from afar, but she actually spends very little time with the filly she tries so hard to protect. This turns out to be a strange development given the degree to which the narrative relies on her devotion. Count (Selah’s Sweet Dream, 2015) draws Mary and Laura in broad but believable strokes, defined mainly by their unrelenting pluckiness in the face of adversity. While the work tackles disability, death, and grief, Mary’s and Laura’s environments are so idyllic and their optimism and perseverance so remarkable that the story retains an aura of uncomplicated gentleness throughout.

A short, simple, and sweet tale about two friends and a horse.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Hastings Creations Group

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2016

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