Review Detail

Kids Fiction 155
Teaching dogs to dance
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
Ariel has a difficult home life in her Blue Ridge Mountain home in Virginia. It's not because of economics; her father is older, educated, and well-to-do. However, her mother, a former Apple Blossom Parade princess, does not appreciate Ariel's keen mind and love of music. Instead, she focuses on the fact that Ariel is not conventionally pretty like her sister, Gloria. As preparations for the parade ramp up, Ariel also has to deal with the fact that her older half brother George is deployed in Afghanistan. She misses him and his support, and worries about his fate. When she is wandering in the woods one day, Ariel gets caught in a storm and saved by a dog, who takes her to a cabin. There, the two meet a vet who also served in Afghanistan, Sergeant Josie. Ariel knows her mother won't allow her to have a dog, so asks for Josie's help, since she was a canine handler. The dog, named Duke, is a big help to Ariel, and she decides to train the dog to dance. This escalates into a caper with Gloria's former boyfriend, Marcus, that involves breaking dogs out of a local shelter, hiding them, and dressing them up in Gloria's clothing to be on an unregistered parade float. Will Ariel be able to make peace with her family?
Good Points
This was such a vivid description of spring in a small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains that I could smell those apple blossoms. Very atmospheric! Ariel's family dynamics are interesting, and her friendship with Sergeant Josie is touching. I especially appreciated the unfortunate but illuminative scene where Josie is targeted by people who want her to "go back to her country"; she's from Puerto Rico. Teaching Duke to dance was fun, which nicely balances out her well warranted anxiety about George. I was also glad to see that the father was described as older when his involvement in Vietnam protests was mentioned.

The characters are all interesting and well developed. Ariel is outspoken and acerbic, and clearly knows that her mother is playing favorites. While it was fun to watch her get into highjinks with Marcus, I was worried about the dogs. The mother's behavior was inexcusable, which will delight young readers, and it was good to see that the sister does come around a bit and treat Ariel better.

I loved this author's Annie Between the States, Hamilton and Peggy, Suspect Red, and especially Under a War-Torn Sky (2001). It's great to see an author embrace so many different kinds of stories, but tie them all to a specific location. This is similar to Sorosiak's I, Cosmo, when it comes to working with dogs and teaching them to dance. The songs seemed to be a little outdated for today's students, but this might be a good book for an intergenerational read because of that!
Report this review Was this review helpful to you? 0 0

Comments

Already have an account? or Create an account
Powered by JReviews

FEATURED GIVEAWAYS

Latest Book Listings Added

Bread Lab!
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
It’s a sleepy Saturday morning for most people, but not...
A Thousand No's
 
3.5
 
0.0 (0)
This empowering picture book teaches readers that even great ideas...
Ronan Boyle and the Swamp of Certain Death (Ronan Boyle, #2)
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
The hilarious sequel to the instant New York Times bestseller,...
Sharko and Hippo
 
4.5
 
0.0 (0)
With tongue-twisty wordplay and escalating absurdity, this is a fall-down-funny...
The Thing About Bees: A Love Letter
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
A LOVE POEM FROM A FATHER TO HIS TWO SONS,...
The Faithless Hawk (The Merciful Crow, #2)
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Kings become outcasts and lovers become foes in The Faithless...
Zora's Zucchini
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
The first zucchini of a summer garden is always exciting,...
Libby Loves Science
 
4.5
 
0.0 (0)
Libby loves science! In this STEM-themed picture book, a companion...
The Hidden Rainbow
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
All the colors of the rainbow are hidden in the...
The Places We Sleep
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
A family divided, a country going to war, and a...
Chasing Starlight
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
Movies, mansions, and murder in the Golden Age of Hollywood!...
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
Midwestern high school seniors and swim teammates Alli and Brandon...
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
True love has never been more deadly in this lush...
Kamala and Maya's Big Idea
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Meena Harris debuts with an empowering picture book about two...
Harvey Holds His Own (The Harvey Stories, #2)
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
The West Highland Terrier that brought Harvey Comes Home to...
Everything I Thought I Knew
 
4.3
 
0.0 (0)
A teenage girl wonders if she’s inherited more than just...

Latest Member Reviews

Bread Lab!
 
4.0
"BREAD LAB! is a cute picture book that walks through the steps of making sourdough bread through the eyes of..."
A Thousand No's
 
3.5
"A THOUSAND NO'S is a cute picture book about the way that feedback can change an idea. A girl has..."
Ronan Boyle and the Swamp of Certain Death (Ronan Boyle, #2)
 
4.0
"RONAN BOYLE AND THE SWAMP OF CERTAIN DEATH is a comedic middle grade fantasy that features a young boy on..."
Sharko and Hippo
 
4.5
"SHARKO AND HIPPO is a clever and comical book about two best friends who are going fishing for the day...."
The Thing About Bees: A Love Letter
 
5.0
"THE THING ABOUT BEES: A LOVE LETTER is an informative and gorgeously illustrated picture book about bees. The book describes..."
The Faithless Hawk (The Merciful Crow, #2)
 
5.0
"THE FAITHLESS HAWK is one of my favorite reads of 2020. I laughed, I sighed, I cried, and this book..."
Zora's Zucchini
 
5.0
"ZORA'S ZUCCHINI is a delightful picture book that explores growing vegetables and sharing with neighbors. Zora is a little bored..."
Libby Loves Science
 
4.5
"LIBBY LOVES SCIENCE is a cute picture book that brings a love of science to all the fun of ice..."
The Hidden Rainbow
 
5.0
"THE HIDDEN RAINBOW is a delightful picture book that combines counting, colors, and nature in a beautiful exploration. Each page..."
The Places We Sleep
 
5.0
"THE PLACES WE SLEEP is a moving middle grade historical that takes place around 9/11. The book is written entirely..."
Dating Makes Perfect
 
5.0
"DATING MAKES PERFECT is a beautifully written YA contemporary romance that had me grinning from ear-to-ear. Winnie has two older..."
Chasing Starlight
 
4.0
"WHAT I LOVED: We think of the glitz, glamorous mega-stars, and classic movies when we think of the Golden Age..."
Paola Santiago and the River of Tears
 
3.0
"Paola “Pao” Santiago loves science and hanging out with her best friends, Emma and Dante. She doesn’t love how superstitious..."
Kamala and Maya's Big Idea
 
5.0
"KAMALA AND MAYA'S BIG IDEA is a picture book based on a true story about pursuing your goals and doing..."
Harvey Holds His Own (The Harvey Stories, #2)
 
4.0
"HARVEY HOLDS HIS OWN is a contemporary middle grade told from three perspectives: Maggie, Harvey, and Austin. Maggie is starting..."
The Night Country (The Hazel Wood #2)
 
4.0
"Alice Proserpine thought she was mostly back to “normal” life after breaking from her story in the Hinterland, but when..."
Ghost Boys
 
5.0
"Jewell Parker Rhodes writes electrifying middle grade stories that pack emotion into every sentence, and GHOST BOYS showcases that skill..."
Everything I Thought I Knew
 
4.3
"What worked: Intriguing plot of Chloe, a seventeen-year-old super-achiever, who ends up collapsing during her senior year in high school..."
Sunshine in the Shadows: Book 2 of the Sunshine Series
 
4.7
"This one is probably the least exciting out of the 3 books, but its lovely getting to know the characters..."
Sunshine Reigns: Book 3 of the Sunshine Series
 
5.0
"This my favourite book of the 3-part series. Sunny comes into her own with a very satisfying ending."