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Summary: Kali, a Labrador retriever puppy is learning her new job. She is being trained to be a humanitarian mine detection dog. She has the potential to be the best dog on the team, but when there are butterflies and things that look like fun, it's really hard to concentrate. When a father and young boy come to the training center seeking help, Kali is the only dog available. Is she ready to lead them safely across the mountain? This is a picture book story for advanced readers.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, family reading, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 5 to 9; read yourself: 8 to 13
Interest Level: 6 to 10
Age of Child: Read with 5½-year-old child. Read by high school freshman.
Young Reader Reaction: Our child sat and listened attentively while we read. There were no questions (which surprised us). This is a book that s/he'll listen to if we pick it up to read, but it isn't one that is independently pulled from the stack. Student reader: This was good, but not great. I picked it because it looked easy. It would be better for little kids.
Adult Reader Reaction: The author offers a strong story about mine detection without being gruesome or morbid. The water color illustrations complement the message, as well. Although billed for a high school audience, this is better suited to upper elementary or middle grade readers.
Pros: Although the topic is serious, within the story itself, the issue of land mines is in the background. The book focuses more on Kali and training dogs for serious work.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. This is an excellent book offering a story on a topic children should know about ... but not in a way that is offensive, graphic, morbid, gruesome, or in any way political.
Educational Themes: The story offers learning on several levels. The book introduces the subjects of landmines (in general), as well as training dogs to be humanitarian mine detection. Given that the story is set in Cambodia, you can also move beyond the book to explore its history and culture. Less obvious--but still valuable (particularly for younger readers) are the lessons about teamwork and learning to focus.