Pick of the Litter by Bill Wallace
You know, when I order something for my classroom library from Scholastic, I’m reading a teensy-tiny description and then weighing that against the teensy-tiny descriptions of other books. And sometimes, I don’t pick winners. This one has been in my classroom library for a few years, but I think it will migrate along to other bookshelves now.
In its favor, it’s not a depressing book about dogs and has a happy ending. Unfortunately, I haven’t got a lot of other positive things to say. The book starts out strangely. It’s the end of the school year and Tom is struggling with spelling. We quickly learn that he’s lied to his teacher a few times in the recent past. His teacher is determined to help him become an honorable boy again. All of this is a rather elaborate set up for Tom to make a good honest decision later. It just doesn’t really go with the rest of the story (which is about pointer dogs and not about spelling) and the teacher makes a lot of really questionable choices ranging from having him rewrite his spelling words 25 times each to leaving students unsupervised. There’s over 30 pages of this. From there we move on to the real story, Tom helping out on Grandpa’s farm, where Grandpa raises and trains dogs. Then there’s another weird side story that starts with completely irrelevant information on soccer camp and then heads to an amusement park vacation where Tom’s family starts hanging out with another family and he meets a girl. Then we go back to the farm for the rest of the story. It was disjointed and uninspiring. But there were sure a lot of dogs!
It should be noted that Bill Wallace has a plethora of books about dogs, and a few about other animals too, which may be better than this one. I think it’s worth looking into, if I’d had more time this month, I would have done it myself.
Sex, Nudity, Dating –So, Tom’s going into sixth grade. He holds hands with a girl, kisses a girl and even names a dog so that it has a combination of their names. Uh-huh. Okay. On the animal side of things, dogs nurse pups and a man buys a female dog so that he can breed her. But Tom thinks that’s too embarrassing to mention to a girl.
Profanity – “darned,” “jerk,”
Death, Violence and Gore – Grandpa is hospitalized after a heart attack and bypass surgery. Grandma worries that Grandpa will bust his incision open. (Ew) An old dog has to be put to sleep. Guns (at least an all wood one for the kid) are used to hunt birds.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – Grandpa chews but does not smoke cigars.
Frightening or Intense Things – A dog snarls and growls.