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Another nicely honed Redfeather Book from the author of Lavender (1993) and Phoenix Rising (p. 480). Again, the theme is caring for loved ones; but where the adults in Lavender were exemplary, the parents here hardly seem to love their daughter in the beginning, much less the stray dog she adopts. Gruff Pap, a carpenter, is too busy to let Tate help him or to understand her need for companionship. Mam has a deep fear of dogs and still has scars to show why; she's testy and anxious when Pap lets Tate feed ``Sable'' and keep her outside. But Tate loves the dog, and Sable reciprocates her affection. Unfortunately, once she's well fed, she takes to wandering—follows the school bus, brings things home, bothers neighbors. When there are complaints, Pap gives Sable to a customer, miles away. Desolate but determined, Tate builds a fence in hopes of bringing Sable home, then hitches a ride to see her; but the dog has run away. By the time she makes her way home, each character has gained some insights: With more help from Tate, and realizing how much she has grieved, Mam mellows; Pap sees the fence as evidence that Tate might make a carpenter; even Sable has had enough of running and settles down. With a fresh narrative voice, thoughtfully developed characters, and its surefire Lassie-Come-Home ending, a fine early chapter book. (Fiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-8050-2416-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1994

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The wriggly narrator of Diary of a Worm (2003) puts in occasional appearances, but it’s his arachnid buddy who takes center stage here, with terse, tongue-in-cheek comments on his likes (his close friend Fly, Charlotte’s Web), his dislikes (vacuums, people with big feet), nervous encounters with a huge Daddy Longlegs, his extended family—which includes a Grandpa more than willing to share hard-won wisdom (The secret to a long, happy life: “Never fall asleep in a shoe.”)—and mishaps both at spider school and on the human playground. Bliss endows his garden-dwellers with faces and the odd hat or other accessory, and creates cozy webs or burrows colorfully decorated with corks, scraps, plastic toys and other human detritus. Spider closes with the notion that we could all get along, “just like me and Fly,” if we but got to know one another. Once again, brilliantly hilarious. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-06-000153-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Joanna Cotler/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2005

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From the Franklin School Friends series

Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading.

When Franklin School principal Mr. Boone announces a pet-show fundraiser, white third-grader Cody—whose lack of skill and interest in academics is matched by keen enthusiasm for and knowledge of animals—discovers his time to shine.

As with other books in this series, the children and adults are believable and well-rounded. Even the dialogue is natural—no small feat for a text easily accessible to intermediate readers. Character growth occurs, organically and believably. Students occasionally, humorously, show annoyance with teachers: “He made mad squinty eyes at Mrs. Molina, which fortunately she didn’t see.” Readers will be kept entertained by Cody’s various problems and the eventual solutions. His problems include needing to raise $10 to enter one of his nine pets in the show (he really wants to enter all of them), his troublesome dog Angus—“a dog who ate homework—actually, who ate everything and then threw up afterward”—struggles with homework, and grappling with his best friend’s apparently uncaring behavior toward a squirrel. Serious values and issues are explored with a light touch. The cheery pencil illustrations show the school’s racially diverse population as well as the memorable image of Mr. Boone wearing an elephant costume. A minor oddity: why does a child so immersed in animal facts call his male chicken a rooster but his female chickens chickens?

Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: June 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-30223-8

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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