Give this one to kids struggling with a new school or to anyone interested in animal rescue.



Starting middle school can be tough, so Madison Morgan doesn’t think she can handle it without a dog, but her stepfather has other ideas.

For Madison Morgan, middle school doesn’t look promising. Her best friend has more interest in boys and fashion than in spending time with her, and her stepfather’s system for maintaining an orderly household is beginning to bristle. Morgan feels pretty sure she won’t make it through the year without a dog of her own, but her stepfather says no. When he gives in halfway and brings home Lilly, a shelter dog Madison can foster temporarily, she’s angry—she thinks he doesn’t understand her needs, and he didn’t bother to check with her. However, she can’t stay upset for long. Lilly is a great dog, and having her around helps to unlock a power Madison didn’t know she had: She can feel what dogs are feeling and understand them. The power is largely extraneous to the story. While it allows her to bond to animals and feel closer to her late mother, it adds nothing to the book that is not already established by good character development. Madison is a great character: She’s likable and realistic, and readers are likely to relate to her difficulties finding her place in a new world. It’s clear that Madison has always been interested in helping animals, and her dual roles as a foster dog owner and class blogger are more than enough to spark action. After Lilly arrives, Madison becomes more involved in helping dogs. She and a new friend, Cooper, help out at an animal shelter owned by a family friend and post about it on the class blog. Her interest also leads logically to the main conflict of the story: When Madison discovers that something dangerous is happening in her neighborhood, she has to draw on her knowledge, and her family and friends, for help. Animal rescue is an important topic in this book, and resources listed at the end provide options for readers who want to get involved.

Give this one to kids struggling with a new school or to anyone interested in animal rescue. 

Pub Date: July 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-0615610955

Page Count: 166

Publisher: Legacy Media Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2012

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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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