cover image Dog Days

Dog Days

Karen English, illus by Laura Freeman. Clarion, $14.99 (128p) ISBN 978-0-547-97044-8

English returns to Carver Elementary, the setting of her Nikka and Deja books, in this strong kickoff to her Carver Chronicles series. This time, the protagonist is new student Gavin, whose cool-kid potential (namely his basketball and skateboard skills) is undermined by his family. His parents don’t allow him to play “overly violent” video games, and his older sister, Danielle, calls him mortifying nicknames like Gavmeister. Both of these horrors are revealed when Gavin’s new friend, Richard, comes over, a visit that ends with the boys accidentally breaking Danielle’s prized snow globe. In order to pay back his sister, Gavin earns money by walking his great-aunt Myrtle’s cranky and extremely accessorized Pomeranian, Carlotta. English captures Gavin’s realistic frustrations on the home front and the social nuances of elementary school life as he struggles to fit in without compromising himself (“Gavin doesn’t know if he likes that Deja girl. She reminds him too much of his sister”). Freeman’s upbeat spot illustrations and English’s accessible storytelling target the book to emerging independent readers. Ages 6–9. Illustrator’s agent: Bernadette Szost, Portfolio Solutions. (Dec.)