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Cody Harmon, King of Pets

Cody Harmon, King of Pets

by Claudia Mills, Rob Shepperson (Illustrator)

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In book number five in the popular Franklin School Friends series, Cody Harmon stars in this story about a class pet show!


In book number five in the popular Franklin School Friends series, Cody Harmon stars in this story about a class pet show!

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 1–4—A new addition to the series, this installment centers on Cody, a third-grade lover of pets and animals. Cody, who lives on a farm with his mom, dad, and nine-month-old twin sisters, struggles with schoolwork. He is writing a report on pigs—he has an adored pet pig named Mr. Piggins—but would much rather play than do homework. As in the other titles, the principal, Mr. Boone, interrupts the class, this time announcing a pet contest to raise money for the Humane Society. Cody wants to bring all nine of his pets (including Mr. Piggins, a rooster, and three chickens) but doesn't have the $10 entry fee for each pet to participate. Dad offers to pay him extra allowance if he works harder on rewriting his pig report, but that won't be quite enough to cover the full cost. Classmate Tobit wants to borrow Rex, Cody's golden retriever, but after observing Tobit being mean to another animal, Cody is not convinced his friend is sensitive enough to care for the dog. Mr. Boone helps the boys resolve their differences, and all ends well. There is good character development, as well as lots of plot to keep newly independent readers engaged. VERDICT Another good entry in this realistic fiction series perfect for young readers who have exhausted all of the "Clementine" (Hyperion) and "Ivy and Bean" (Chronicle) books.—Susan Lissim, Dwight School, New York City
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2016-03-16
When Franklin School principal Mr. Boone announces a pet-show fundraiser, white third-grader Cody—whose lack of skill and interest in academics is matched by keen enthusiasm for and knowledge of animals—discovers his time to shine. As with other books in this series, the children and adults are believable and well-rounded. Even the dialogue is natural—no small feat for a text easily accessible to intermediate readers. Character growth occurs, organically and believably. Students occasionally, humorously, show annoyance with teachers: "He made mad squinty eyes at Mrs. Molina, which fortunately she didn't see." Readers will be kept entertained by Cody's various problems and the eventual solutions. His problems include needing to raise $10 to enter one of his nine pets in the show (he really wants to enter all of them), his troublesome dog Angus—"a dog who ate homework—actually, who ate everything and then threw up afterward"—struggles with homework, and grappling with his best friend's apparently uncaring behavior toward a squirrel. Serious values and issues are explored with a light touch. The cheery pencil illustrations show the school's racially diverse population as well as the memorable image of Mr. Boone wearing an elephant costume. A minor oddity: why does a child so immersed in animal facts call his male chicken a rooster but his female chickens chickens? Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading. (Fiction. 7-10)
From the Publisher
"Another winner from Mills, equally well suited to reading aloud and independent reading." —Kirkus starred review

Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
Franklin School Friends Series , #5
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.33(w) x 7.89(h) x 0.60(d)
790L (what's this?)
Age Range:
7 - 10 Years

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Read an Excerpt

Cody Harmon, King of Pets

By Claudia Mills, Rob Shepperson

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 2016 Claudia Mills
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-374-30224-5


As Cody Harmon lay on the family room couch after dinner on Sunday evening, his calico cat, Puffball, purred on his chest. His tabby cat, Furface, kneaded his stomach. Rex the golden retriever snored at his feet. And Angus the terrier had just upended the wastepaper basket and was shredding wadded-up tissues all over the family room carpet.

"Angus, no!" Cody hollered.

The cats leaped at the sound. The sheaf of papers on which Cody had been making pig doodles, when he was supposed to be writing a three-page animal report for his teacher, Mrs. Molina, scattered onto the floor.

"Oh, Angus, look what you did!"

Shoving the dog out of the way, Cody started scooping up tissue bits, crumpled wrappers, and the small stuffed giraffe Angus had already destroyed that afternoon. But Cody wasn't mad. He would rather clean up dog mess — even dog poop — than write an animal report any day.

Cody loved animals, all animals.

He did not love writing reports about animals. Especially a report assigned three weeks ago that he had barely begun. Especially a report that was due tomorrow.

His mother came into the room, a baby on each hip: Cody's twin sisters, nine months old and starting to crawl all over the house. Tibbie and Libbie were almost like two more pets, in addition to the dogs, cats, bantam rooster, chickens, and enormous pig out in the pigsty.

"What did he do now?" Cody's mom demanded.

"Nothing," Cody said quickly. "Just got into the trash, but I cleaned it up already."

"That dog is nothing but trouble!" Her eyes fell on the papers still littering the floor, which Angus was now sniffing. "I thought you didn't have any homework this weekend."

"It's not really homework. It's an animal report."

"Well, good for you for starting it nice and early." She paused. "When is it due?"

Cody knew better than to lie. "Well, Monday, but —"


What could Cody say but "I forgot"?

And he had forgotten. He'd been busy the whole weekend. A soccer game with his best friend, Tobit Johnson. Helping his mother with the babies. Helping his dad plant the corn. Riding in his dad's pickup to town to spend his twenty dollars of birthday money on tease toys for the cats, squeaker balls for the dogs, and hoof conditioner for Mr. Piggins. How was he supposed to write a pig report, too?

His dad poked his head into the family room doorway. "Everything okay?" he asked with a slow smile.

"Cody has a report due tomorrow," his mom said. "And he hasn't even started it. Have you?" She turned to Cody. "Don't bother answering. I know you haven't."

Well, he had started it. Mrs. Molina had made them pick their animal, so he had picked pigs. And she had made them get library books and write a list of the kind of facts they were supposed to find: size, diet, life span, habitat. His books and list were still in his desk at school, buried under all the other work he hadn't remembered to bring home.

"Well, it's only six-thirty now," his dad said mildly. "Bedtime's not for another hour and a half. Let's clear out this menagerie and give the boy a chance to get this thing done."

"Can the animals stay?" Cody asked. "It's a report on animals."

His mom harrumphed, but his dad said, "Sure. Just do your best," and gave him another smile.

His dad's encouragement almost made Cody wish he had been working on his report harder.

Back on the couch, with the cats in place and Angus whining to have the squeaker ball tossed for him, Cody looked at Mrs. Molina's assignment sheet. Awake now, Rex nuzzled Cody's knee, as if worried that his boy had such a big report to write so quickly.

"You must get your animal facts from at least two different sources. These must be books or magazines, not the Internet," read the instructions.

Cody doubted everyone in his class would do that. Perfect Simon Ellis would have ten — or twenty, or a hundred — sources, but no one else in the Franklin School third grade was like Simon. Well, Kelsey Green would have a lot of sources, too. Kelsey loved to read. But Tobit probably only had one.

Zero wasn't that much less than one.

Besides, if there was one thing Cody knew about, it was pigs. He could be his own source.

He picked up his pencil and started writing.

I like pigs. Pigs are smart. People think pigs are dirty, but pigs are clean. I like pigs a LOT.

That was a good start.

Pigs eat slops from a trough. My pig is called Mr. Piggins.

Six whole sentences! That was long enough for one page, and he could add another page with a picture. Cody set his completed page on the floor and, on a second sheet of paper, started to draw a portrait of Mr. Piggins from memory.

It wasn't like he'd get a good grade anyway. Mrs. Molina never gave him good grades on anything. He had the worst grades in the class, even worse than Tobit's.

But no one else had as many pets as he did.

Cody looked over at Angus, who had pieces of something white and crumpled hanging out of his mouth. Pieces of Cody's pig report.

"Angus, no!"

It was too late.

Now he had to write the whole dumb report all over again.

* * *

At school on Monday, Mrs. Molina collected the animal reports first thing.

"How long was yours?" Cody whispered to Tobit.

Tobit shrugged as if to say, Who cares? Then he said, "Two and a half pages. But I wrote really big."

Mrs. Molina had just finished setting the pile of reports on her desk when Mr. Boone, the Franklin School principal, came into the room. Cody relaxed. Some schools had principals who yelled at kids like him and Tobit, whose reports were too short, but Mr. Boone was funny and jolly.

Today, instead of wearing his principal jacket and tie, Mr. Boone wore a T-shirt that said Support Your Humane Society! Cody had adopted his dogs and cats from the Humane Society, though his mother kept threatening to make him take Angus back. Maybe he could support the Humane Society even more by adopting extra pets. A rabbit, maybe. Or a goat!

"Boys and girls!" Mr. Boone boomed. "Next week is going to be a very special week at Franklin School."

Mr. Boone thought every week at Franklin School was a special one. You had to like school a lot to be a principal. Cody hoped the special week wouldn't involve a reading contest, a spelling bee, a science fair, or something where you had to dress up and pretend you lived in the olden days.

"Next week," Mr. Boone said, "is our first-ever Franklin School pet show."

Cody could hardly believe his ears. The hubbub in the room showed that everyone else was excited, too. But nobody else could be as excited as Cody.

There would be prizes, Mr. Boone explained. For each grade level, a panel of pet experts would award the prizes for best animal in each species category, as well as a grand prize for best in show. There would also be a popularity prize voted on by students.

Cody's pets could win heaps and heaps! He didn't like to raise his hand in class — that was the kind of thing Simon did all the time — but he had to ask. "How many pets can we enter?"

Mr. Boone grinned. "As many as you want!"

Two dogs. Two cats. Three chickens. One rooster. One pig. Cody counted on his fingers: nine!

"The point of the pet show is to raise money for the Humane Society," Mr. Boone said, pointing to his T-shirt. "So there will be an entrance fee for every pet you bring to school that day."

"How much?" someone else asked.

"Ten dollars," Mr. Boone replied.

Ten dollars?

Cody didn't have ten dollars. Last week he had gotten a twenty-dollar bill for his birthday, but he had already spent every penny of it on pet presents.

What was ten dollars times nine pets? Cody couldn't do tough math problems, like Annika Riz, who was a math genius, but it had to be a fortune.

Cody would be lucky if he could come up with the money to enter one pet, let alone nine.

What kind of pet show would it be if Cody Harmon, king of pets, couldn't enter any pets at all?


After Mr. Boone headed off to spread the news of the pet show to the rest of the school, Mrs. Molina tried to get the class to settle down for math time.

"Boys and girls, get out your math books," she instructed.

Annika raised her hand. Probably she already had some hard math question Cody couldn't even understand.

"There should be lots of prizes in different categories," Annika said. "Like cutest pet, funniest pet, smartest pet."

Annika was always talking about her beagle, Prime, and the smart things he could do.

"It's math time now, Annika," Mrs. Molina reminded her, something she had certainly never needed to remind Annika of before.

Kelsey raised her hand next. Cody wondered what she would ask. Kelsey didn't care about math, and she didn't have any pets.

"I read a book once where there was a pet show, and there was a prize for the best costume," Kelsey said.

The class, mainly the girls, erupted into a din of oohs and aahs.

Cody was disgusted. That might be the worst idea he had ever heard. Pets hated costumes! He tried to imagine Sir B, his bantam rooster, in a costume but failed utterly.

"We're doing math now, Kelsey," Mrs. Molina said, sounding crosser this time.

Izzy Barr was now the third of the best-friend trio to have her hand in the air.

"Is this a question about math, Izzy?" Mrs. Molina asked.

"No, but —"

"This is math time!"

"But it's not fair! If we have a race, everyone can run. If we have a reading contest, everyone can read. But not everyone has a pet." Beneath her perky braids, Izzy's shoulders drooped.

Tobit leaned over and whispered to Cody, "Super Simon doesn't have a pet." Quite a few kids, including Simon, Tobit, Kelsey, and Izzy, had no pets at all.

The boys exchanged grins. There was finally one contest at Franklin School that Simon Ellis had no chance of winning!

"Boys and girls!" Mrs. Molina sounded as angry as Cody had ever heard her, which was saying a lot, as everyone knew she was the strictest teacher in the school. "I will pass on your comments — about pet categories, costumes, and fairness — to Mr. Boone. But right now, if you don't have your math books out and opened by the time I count to five, I'll ..."

She trailed off as if trying to think of a fitting threat. Then her face softened.

"Given that this class can apparently think of nothing but the pet show," she said, "I'm going to change our plan for math time today."

Cody could tell from the glint in Mrs. Molina's eyes that he wasn't going to like the new plan for math time any better than the old one.

"I want each of you to come up with a word problem about pets."

Cody stifled a groan. Tobit groaned out loud.

Word problems were the worst.

If you were good at math but bad at writing, word problems were hard because they had writing in them.

If you were good at writing but bad at math, word problems were hard because they had math in them.

If you were bad at both, word problems were impossible.

Cody was bad at both.

"Then," Mrs. Molina finished, "I'll ask you to share your word problem with the class for everyone to solve. So put your math books away" — not that anyone but Simon had taken one out yet — "and see what creative, challenging word problems you can come up with about pets!"

Smiling broadly now, Mrs. Molina began passing out sheets of blank paper. Cody stared at his, trying to think of something to write. All around him, pencils scratched. Tobit grinned as he scribbled. He turned his paper so Cody could see what he had written:

If a dog poops and a cat poops and a bird poops, how much poop is there?

Cody cracked up.

"Boys!" Mrs. Molina warned them. Clearly she thought there was nothing to laugh about, or even smile about, in the whole of mathematics.

Finally it was time to share. Cody still hadn't written anything, and Mrs. Molina usually called first on whoever seemed worst prepared. But today she started with Simon.

"If Sally has ten dogs, and thirty percent of them are Dalmatians, twenty percent are Jack Russell terriers, twenty percent are corgis, and the rest are cocker spaniels, how many cocker spaniels does Sally have?"

For someone who had no pets, Simon sure knew the names of a lot of dog breeds. It would have taken Cody the rest of his life to answer that one, but Annika was already waving her hand in the air.


Cody stared at her.

"Annika, your turn," Mrs. Molina said.

"If Izzy gets a dog, and he runs at a speed of ten miles an hour, and he runs for fifteen minutes, how many miles has Izzy's dog run?" Izzy was the fastest runner in the class.

Simon had his hand in the air before she finished.

"Two point five. Or two and a half."

Cody stared harder. How could even Simon know that?

Kelsey read her problem next.

"Once upon a time" — talk about a dumb opening for a math problem — "there were three princesses named Kelselina, Izzabella, and Annikanna." She looked to see if her friends were beaming in appreciation of their new names. They were. "They lived together in a castle deep in a forest," Kelsey continued. "Although they were princesses, they were very poor. Kelselina's books were in tatters. Izzabella's slippers were worn through from her running. Annikanna's royal pet, her noble dog, Prime, had hardly any dog biscuits to eat."

Mrs. Molina asked, "Kelsey, is the word problem part of this coming soon?"

Kelsey sighed. "Okay. I'll skip the part about how they find the buried gold coins. But Kelselina finds three gold coins, and Izzabella finds four, and Annikanna finds five, so how many gold coins do they have?"

Cody could have answered that one, counting on his fingers, but he didn't feel like it.

"Twelve," someone called out.

"And then," Kelsey concluded, "they lived happily ever after."

Mrs. Molina adjusted her glasses. Cody could tell she was wondering if the pet word problems had been a bad idea after all.

She called on two more kids, not Cody or Tobit. Maybe she didn't want to hear the kind of word problem that would make two boys laugh out loud.

Cody's page was still blank, but if Mrs. Molina had called on him, he would have said: If a boy has one pig, two dogs, two cats, one rooster, and three chickens, and it costs ten dollars to bring a pet to the pet show, and he doesn't have any money, how many pets can he bring?

Even though he was bad at math, Cody knew the answer to that one all too well.


* * *

At lunch recess, Cody and Tobit headed to the fence at the edge of the school field. It had been spray-painted with graffiti by some middle school kids on Halloween once and then painted over, but the big white letters spelling out Boo and RIP (for "rest in peace") still shone through. The letters made perfect targets for a throwing game, using stones from the gravel that edged the field.

Cody liked playing Boo-RIP, but even more he liked being outside, in the shade of the big oak tree, watching the squirrels dart about as they played. His favorite squirrel was a small one with a broken-off tail. Cody couldn't bear to think of how Stubby's tail might have gotten injured. But Stubby followed the others up and down the tree as well as if his tail were still long and bushy.

"B!" Cody called the letter as he aimed at the fence.

"I!" Tobit called his.

Both boys missed. Stubby watched from a safe distance.

As Cody hit the second o in Boo and Tobit missed the P in RIP, Cody asked Tobit, "Which pet should I bring for the pet show?"

As soon as he said it, he was sorry. He had too many pets to bring, but Tobit had no pets at all.

Sure enough, Tobit scowled. "Pet shows are dumb."

Cody wanted to say, Pet shows are wonderful!

But he didn't. And this pet show would be wonderful only if he could earn a lot of money to enter every single pet.

And earn it fast.

So he stopped talking about the pet show and concentrated on throwing his stones, pretending that he would get a dollar for each successful strike. By the time the bell sounded for the end of recess, he had earned eighteen dollars.

Too bad it was all in his head.


"How can I earn some money?" Cody asked his mom after school as Rex padded after him into the kitchen.

Tibbie and Libbie had just gotten up from their afternoon nap. Tibbie was crawling toward Angus's bowl of kibble, which she had upset before school that morning. Libbie was crawling toward the cat door, which she had gotten her hand stuck in yesterday.

"Get Tibbie!" Cody's mother cried out as she dashed to snatch up Libbie.

Cody was already in pursuit.


Excerpted from Cody Harmon, King of Pets by Claudia Mills, Rob Shepperson. Copyright © 2016 Claudia Mills. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Claudia Mills is the acclaimed author of many books for children. She lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Rob Shepperson's most recent book is The Memory Bank, a collaboration with Carolyn Coman. He lives in Croton on Hudson, New York.

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