cover image Better with Butter

Better with Butter

Victoria Piontek. Scholastic Press, $17.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-338-66219-1

In this heartwarming novel set in Northern California, Piontek (The Spirit of Cattail County) conveys the calming and strengthening power of connecting with an animal. Diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder, self-proclaimed coward Marvel McKenna views her worries as armor that helps her prepare—“It takes a lot of work to be afraid of everything.” When she’s not dwelling on global problems, the implied-white sixth grader’s mind is filled with worries about making friends, taking tests, and public speaking—including an upcoming presentation in front of the whole school. But after rehearsal for the event makes her freeze on stage, Marvel pushes her fear aside to rescue a baby fainting goat from a group of eighth graders intent on startling it. Marvel’s parents agree that she can keep the goat, dubbed Butter, until the owner is found. When she is with the animal, Marvel’s anxiety subsides and, for the first time, she feels confident. As a result, Marvel would like Butter to serve as an emotional service animal at school; before that can happen, though, her intimidating principal requires that Butter pass a difficult obedience test. Marvel’s honest first-person voice sheds light on an experience of living with chronic anxiety, conveying conflicts and progress with clear internal detail. Ages 8–12. [em]Agent: Laura Rennert, Andrea Brown Literary. (July) [/em]