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Children's LiteratureMary Margaret is desperate for a pet. But with a father allergic to dander and a very preoccupied pregnant mother, things look bleak. All during summer vacation she dreams and schemes about her dilemma. First, she sneaks a wayward rat into the house, thinking "Lester" could become her pet. That does not work because the owner comes to claim Lester, who turns out to be "Bridgette," and Mary Margaret does not think her mother would like a pet rat anyway. To placate her pet-crazy daughter, Mary's mother buys an ant farm, which her daughter insists is not like having "real" pets. Mary Margaret is somewhat more excited when her brother brings a turtle home from camp. The problem is that this turtle is a predatory snapping turtle. "Crash" must go to the nature center, orders Mom, after only a few days. As the summer drags on, this almost 9-year-old comes up with her own great idea. Mary enlists her older brother's help in making "Number two Totes" for sale. She figures that she can make enough money selling these pooper scoopers to buy a dog and keep him in a kennel. Mary Margaret's plan does not come off quite like she expects, but she and her parents reach a satisfying compromise. In the process, this likable protagonist grows from a self absorbed eight-year-old to a considerate nine-year-old, who is not afraid to pitch in with chores and help take care of her new baby sister. All in all, Mary Margaret's summer turns out okay. She meets a new neighbor, who turns out to be a best friend. She and her mother cannot go back to how things were before the baby entered their lives. But, luckily, Mary Margaret has started to see things differently and she has a new appreciation for how the family asa unit is supposed to work. Young readers will love this story. Although girls will be more likely to take it up, there are two male characters that have a strong presence in the book—Mary Margaret's 13-year old brother, and Andy, her dog-loving, violin-playing new best friend. 2004, Dutton Children's Books/Penguin Young Readers Group, Ages 8 to 10.
—Jeanne K. Pettenati, J.D.