While some scenes will be tear-jerkers for sure, Madison’s (and Torres’) compassion for voiceless dogs may inspire action in...

It's NOT Just A Dog!

In Torres’ second entry in her middle-grade Project Madison series (Madison Morgan: When Dogs Blog, 2012), middle schooler Madison uncovers a dogfighting ring in her neighborhood—and learns more about her special empathic gift.

Madison Morgan loves dogs. She volunteers at her late mother’s friend Netta’s shelter, she’s starting up a dog-walking business with her friend Cooper, and she’s always on the lookout for mistreated animals. It’s easier for her than for most because she has a psychic connection with dogs; she can feel their thoughts, experience their emotions. Sometimes this is overwhelming, as with poor sick Millie, a skinny greyhound she sees chained outside with no food and dirty water. While at first she’s furious with Ben, Millie’s owner, she realizes there’s more to his story. At the same time, she’s training puppy Aura to be a service dog, making friends with Jonah, the Native American boy whose family has moved in nearby, and putting together clues to a new horror: signs of dogfighting in her town. She learns more than she ever wanted to know about the subject, including the existence of “[b]ait dogs,” given to fighting dogs simply to be wounded in practice. And Jonah’s uncle is helping her to understand her connection to the animal world. Torres tackles difficult animal-welfare subjects through Madison’s voice, which is largely engaging and believable (with the exception of the use of hashtags, which don’t quite work here). Madison’s love of dogs defines her, and her curiosity and bravery are winning. Debut illustrators Moreano and Stoner provide occasional pictures, whose strong black outlines and gray shading have a cartoonish charm. Torres ably distinguishes each character in her wide cast, including Madison’s widowed stepfather, Henry; Netta; Cooper; Jonah and his uncle; troubled bully Donald; and brusque but kind lawyer Mel, the owner of a giant Great Pyrenees named Puffin.

While some scenes will be tear-jerkers for sure, Madison’s (and Torres’) compassion for voiceless dogs may inspire action in her animal-loving readers.

Pub Date: April 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-0615858326

Page Count: 268

Publisher: Legacy Media Press

Review Posted Online: July 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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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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A persuasive, valuable addition to the ongoing immigration reform debate.



A highly organized, informative discussion of the immigration system in the United States.

In this politically charged environment, Afrasiabi manages to broach the volatile issue of immigration in a well-rounded, surprisingly effective framework that combines case studies, historical research, statistical analysis and personal anecdotes to detail the current issues and propose solutions. Invocations of Kafka, “The Twilight Zone” and “Alice in Wonderland” prove warranted as illustrations of the often surreal circumstances that confront immigrants facing deportation. Immigrants usually lack access to quality legal representation, while their situation can be made doubly difficult due to language barriers and significant cultural differences. Afrasiabi incorporates his work with colleagues and students at the Chapman University School of Law to deftly weave together the facts of several compelling cases and their underlying legal issues, with a genuine sense of suspense as readers wonder if justice will be truly be served. Occasionally, though, the narrative becomes overwrought—two federal laws passed in 1996 are “dark storm clouds depositing their sleet”—although, considering the life-changing effects of court decisions, it’s difficult to overstate the ramifications: extralegal rendition of individuals with pending cases and the de facto deportation of native-born children whose parents are deported. Afrasiabi also addresses the legacy of various anti-alien laws in California, as well as marriage equality for same-sex couples when one partner is a noncitizen. As the subtitle asserts, Afrasiabi employs his additional experience in the field of property law to contrast the stark differences between immigration judges and constitutional judges, like their qualifications, vetting processes and even the oaths they take. His arguments culminate in seven concrete reforms proposed in the conclusion. In order to make the immigration system more just and effective, Afrasiabi claims the solutions are closer than we may think; we can implement procedures and safeguards already in place within the constitutional courts.

A persuasive, valuable addition to the ongoing immigration reform debate.

Pub Date: May 1, 2012


Page Count: 249

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

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