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Summary: Nell was in her room studying when she heard the sound. She was sure it was her brothers ... but it wasn't. It was a newborn squirrel that had fallen from a tree. Instantly, Jack, Charley, and Nell felt bound to save it. They convinced their parents they would take care of it and Samantha (aka Mantha) was the new pet. Nell contacted the person who ran a website about saving squirrels and asked for advice. When Libby told her to call Wildlife Rescue, she couldn't do it ... so she told Libby they lived far out in the country and couldn't get help for the squirrel. She also neglected to tell her parents the advice she'd gotten. And so began a pattern where Nell told the truth ... but not all of it. Just as Mantha's natural instincts take over and she becomes more troublesome, Nell's world starts closing in. Her biggest surprise: Libby lives close by and wants to visit. Now what? This is a character-driven story about choices, friendship, and family. This is a character-driven story about choices, friendship, and family. It has potential as a high interest/low readability title.
Type of Reading: family reading, anytime reading, independent reading, middle grade reader
Recommended Age: read together: 8 to 12; read yourself: 10 and up
Young Reader Reaction: This book is great for elementary or middle school girls who like reading about nature. I liked how the book contained many facts about wildlife and how baby squirrels and caterpillars grow, but I like books containing more actions. Other books I would recommend are any books for young children about the environment. Tim Winton is famous for his book about nature, so try An Open Swimmer and Shallows.
Adult Reader Reaction: The author is a good writer and tells a nice story. I liked that there were several layers to the story, both in terms of events and character relationships. The dynamic between Russ and Nell is particularly insightful, as it offers both sides to the hunter / hate hunter scenario and you see both sides of the story. It isn't often that we have characters who are home schooled, so this is a book where they can see themselves. Overall, this was an Okay book, but not one I'd recommend to all teens.
Pros: This is a well-told, wholesome story about life and choices. Teens who are home-schooled will see themselves in Nell and her brothers. This is an excellent choice for animal-crazed kids who tend to see wild animals as pets.
Cons: It seemed slow at times, but I kept reading because I wanted to see how it turned out. Given the amount of factual information about squirrels and the repeated references to the importance of Wildlife Rescue, it would have been valuable to have a resource list in the back.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow. There is a lot to learn in the story, not just about relationships, but also about squirrels.
Educational Themes: Relationships are the core of this story: family dynamics, friendships, and Internet contacts. Early in the story, Nell is careful to protect her personal information, later she slips. This is a great example of just how easy it is to forget your safety measures. As mentioned above, Russ and Nell offer a great opportunity to explore what happens when you take a hardened stand on an issue.
Notes: The publisher donated a copy of this book knowing that we would consider it for review and provide an independent, unbiased profile. This book will be given to a nonprofit to help readers in need.
Literary Categories: Fiction - animal stories, family, conduct of life
Date(s) Reviewed: March 2011
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