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“You cannot help someone get up a hill without getting closer to the top yourself.” More

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Author: Chris Grabenstein

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Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers,

Material: hard cover

Summary: Riley, Jake, and Mongo were playing pizza crust football when the phone rang. Briana needed their help. School bully Gavin Brown was picking on a fifth grader! They diffused that situation and decided to hatch a plan to stop Gavin for good. While they're working on that, something awful happens: Mongo's new dog has been stolen! Can they find a dog AND stop a bully at the same time? This middle grade adventure features a boy, his friends, and their dogs.

Type of Reading: bedtime story, family reading, independent reading, read aloud book

Recommended Age: read together: 8 and up; read yourself: 10 and up

Interest Level: 9 and up

Reading Level: 5.2

Young Reader Reaction: Review pending.

Adult Reader Reaction: This was a really fun, refreshing read. Riley and his friends are "real" kids in "real" families. Young readers will especially relate to how adults put down kids, but cheer when the adults are wrong. There is a McGyver-esque quality to the story and a few twists that you don't see coming.

Pros: Lots of action, plenty of humor, and a few surprises make this a perfect pick for reading aloud. Kids will want to be like Riley and his gang!

Cons: None.

Borrow or Buy: Borrow, at least. If you have a mystery lover, buy it! This is a great addition for the shelf.

If You Liked This Book, Try: HIDDEN   THE CASE OF THE JULY 4th JINX (Milo and Jazz Mysteries, 5)   CRIME THROUGH TIME: NABBED! The 1925 Journal of G. Codd Fitzmorgan

Educational Themes: There are several spots in the story where you can stop and ask "what do you think will happen next" or "who do you think did it." This would be a good book for teaching sequencing and timelines, as well as critical analysis (events, what do you know, what do you assume, what don't you know).

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 - adventure, crime, mystery, middle grade series, humor

Date(s) Reviewed: December 2013, February 2014

Other Reviews: See Critics' Reviews and reader feedback at and


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