Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Book Review: Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer (middle school, murder, dog)

Theodore Boone – Kid Lawyer, by John Grisham (Puffin Books, 2011, 288 pages, $8.99, ages 8-12, grades 3-7), first in a series of six Young Adult novels (Available at the Howard County, MD, public library)

Yes, They Can!

Spencer Quinn* and James Patterson** and now John Grisham*** – all popular contemporary authors of thrilling legal murder mystery tales for adults, can also write popular books for kids! And for grown-ups who want a quick read (kid books).

A Dog, Of Course!

DogEvals would not be reviewing Kid Lawyer if it didn’t have a dog – Judge, of course, a thoroughly mixed mutt, who goes to work every day with our hero Theo’s mom and dad, who just happen to be law partners and who sits on chairs and sleeps under Theo’s bed.

A Kid Lawyer

Theodore Boone is an All-American 13-year-old boy who rides his bike to school in a small town and is experiencing growing up pains. [About Jenny the beautiful: “Hello, Jenny,” he said. She was very pretty and young and Theo was in love. He would marry Jenny tomorrow if he could, but his age and her husband complicated things. (p. 45)]

Theo is the only child of two lawyers (a divorce lawyer and one who stays in his office, one who is neat and cooks twice a year, etc.) and the nephew of a disbarred hippie lawyer. Theo is smart and well-liked, in the Debate Club (but not athletic) and is also the only eighth grader in town with his own ‘law office.’

But Theo is not your average 13-year-old boy: half a dozen kids and grown-ups come to him for personal legal advice****, including a potential witness to a murder. And then there are the requisite shady characters plus the smell and look and sounds of a courtroom where our hero, Theo, hopes to preside one day as a wise judge. (“Most of his classmates dreamed of getting tickets to the big game or concert. Theo Boone lived for the big trials. p. 18)

The Plot

Did we mention the murder? Do you think our hero solves it and everyone lives happily ever after?

Nope, though the book does tie up some loose ends. It continues on to the next book in the series, The Abduction, to keep you going and going and going. That’s next on our list to read. The Scandal also sounds pertinent – about a national middle school cheating plot.


Kid Lawyer is a quick read, one you can put down but don’t want to. The reader can’t help but learn about trials and lawyers, as well.

(Due to the number of clients our young hero already is asked about****, DogEvals thinks these may just turn out to be the next few books in the series.)

*Woof and To Fetch a Thief, etc.
**Dog’s Best Friend and the Alex Cross and Women’s Murder Club series, etc.
***The Pelican Brief, The Firm, The Runaway Jury, etc.
****from drugs and drunkenness to child custody battles and a leash law violation (a minor offense but one that is heard in Animal Court)

Monday, June 24, 2019

Book Review: Gully's Travels (dog, Upper East Side New York, France, children, rowdiness, love and loyalty)

Gully’s Travels, by Tor Seidler (Scholastic, 2008, 192 pages, $16.95, grades 3-4, ages 8 and up)

Every once in a while, DogEvals reviews a book that we unanimously hope turns into a movie. Gully’s Travels is one such book. And, if we didn’t know better, we would have thought it was a book for adults, not elementary schoolers.

The Setting

The book is not what it appears to be. The adorable mutt on the cover is also not what he appears to be. He is more than that. First of all, he is not a mutt.

Pure-bred Lhasa Apso Gulliver dines on only the finest premium gourmet canned dog food and appreciates the better things in life: regular grooming, short walks, peace and quiet. He has his own French Lit professor who lives in an Upper East Side Manhattan high-rise. Gulliver and his professor befriend another professor and his pure-bred, Schnauzer Rodney, who also eats sirloin rather than Kibbles and Bits.

Our professor takes his dog to France every July where Gulliver falls in love with Chloe, a French Maltese.

The Plot Thickens

But then, Gulliver’s professor also falls in love – with a French ‘femme’ who is allergic to dogs.

So, Gulliver must go - to live with the Manhattan apartment’s doorman in Queens and his rowdy family of mutts and kids and noise and fun (fun?). How Gully manages to find his way back to his Manhattan apartment not once but twice is almost unbelievable but he arrives a smelly stray.

And that is only the beginning of Gully’s thoroughly believable but coincidental adventures. The reluctant adventures of a dog on his way to understanding what life is all about and who really matters – and canine loyalty.

Writing Style

Author Tor Seidler tells us vividly about high-end living in New York City and also of its
snooty inhabitants. Seidler then goes on to relate the utter chaos of an immigrant family with French neighbors in Queens, far from the Upper East Side in every imaginable way.

And the ending, though surprisingly unsurprising, is simply the best for a young budding actor and a born-again Lhasa!

We would love to see Gully’s Travels as a movie (like another of Seidler’s books, A Rat’s Tale, a Warner Brothers puppet tale) – or at least a cartoon!

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Book Review: Dog's Best Friend, A Middle School series book, by James Patterson

Dog’s Best Friend: A Middle School series book, by James Patterson (HarperCollins, 2016, 256 pages, $13.99, grades 3-7, ages 8-12)

Dogs and Sisters

Yes, he can! James Patterson, that thrilling bestselling author-with-a-mission* everyone reads (Alex Cross,
The 26th Alex Cross novel
the Women’s Murder Club series,
etc.) or at least knows about, can also write children’s books! Excellent kid books that kids will want to read the entire series of.

            Patterson’s Mission: to prove that there is no such thing as a person who “doesn’t like to read, only people who haven’t found the right book

Widen your adult horizons by picking up a Young Adult James Patterson, a Jimmy book (whose many titles have the goal of getting youngsters to read “just one more”).

The Plot

Our favorite middle schooler, Rafe, wants a computer Gamebox game so he starts a dog-walking business, Dogs To Go (if you picked up the book solely because of dogs, you may be disappointed but not by the story or the hilarious antics of our young hero).

Yes, our hero has a dog, Junior, who, like most dogs, loves the dog park where every human knows all the dogs’ names and none of the humans’.

Rafe Khatchadorian lives with his grandmother (who mysteriously frequents soup kitchens), waitress mother, and smart and smart-aleck little sister, Georgia - so smart that she is promoted to some of Rafe’s middle school classes. What could be worse in middle school than having your smarter sister in your class?

The Great Dog War

But wait!

There is a war brewing in town when twins move in and start a rival dog-walking business. The twins and Rafe are constantly undermining each other’s business and playing expensive-for-a-kid (dangerous?) creative pranks on each other. It seems that the twins started the canine wars.

But did they really?

Enter Murray the Magician. . . .

Parents will love the reality depicted by author James Patterson. On the other hand, perhaps it is merely a parent’s desired reality – where kids learn lessons and actually apologize.

Kids will love to laugh on page after page because they simply can’t guess what’s coming.

As for the magician, read the book!

* Patterson’s mission: “to prove that there is no such thing as a person who “doesn’t like to read, only people who haven’t found the right book.” Case in point: he sends books to deployed soldiers (I was one such recipient in Afghanistan) and has donated more than three million books to the military and to kids.

Next on our list: The Dog Diaries
by James Patterson and his newest, Katt vs. Dogg

Monday, June 10, 2019

Book Review: Lessons from Lucy (old dog, Dave Barry)

Lessons from Lucy: The Simple Joys of an Old, Happy Dog, by Dave Barry* (Simon & Schuster, 2019, 240 pages, $26)

If You Don’t Know Dave Barry, . . . .

If you read the syndicated newspaper humor columns, if you read books (like Dave Barry Turns 40, Dave Barry Turns 50, Dave Barry Turns 60 or Dave Barry Turns 70), if you watch movies, if you are from Florida, you probably know Dave Barry, that prolific funnyman writer. Yes, that Dave Barry, the one in Wikipedia.

This year he turns quasi-serious, at least on the front cover, with his old but lovely and happy dog Lucy.

One would think this is a dog book just because there is a dog on the cover and in the title. Ah, there’s the rub: Barry can’t help but digress and his digressions are laugh-out-loud funnies. But he does start to write about his beloved dog Lucy (and her predecessors) before he gets side-tracked with story after story. At the end of each chapter he realizes that the book is about the lessons Lucy taught him – eight of them. (In the epilogue, he even grades himself on the lessons.)

Lessons like Lesson Four: Let Go of Your Anger, unless it’s about something really important, which it almost never is (with story after story to illustrate, between bouts of laughter).

But Wait, There’s More!

After the final version of Lessons from Lucy was turned in to the publisher, there was still another dog lesson for Barry – from his daughter this time, a lesson Sophie learned from a hospital therapy dog named Clue.

Back Cover
“I’ve Always Been a Dog Person”

Soon to be famous first lines.

And so starts this book of stories about the dogs of Dave Barry, Pulitzer Prize Winner, and other funnies along the way. You would think he would soon run out of stories that happened to him but I guess not.

What Would We Like More Of?

Photos of Lucy and stories of Lucy. I guess we’ll have to wait for Barry’s next book.

*also author of the book with the best title ever: Babies and Other Hazards of Sex: How to Make a Tiny Person in Only 9 Months, with Tools You Probably Have around the Home