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Mason Dixon: Pet Disasters

Mason Dixon: Pet Disasters

by Claudia Mills

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Soon-to-be fourth-grader Mason Dixon does not want a pet, but his parents think it will be good for him. Goldfish dies soon after his arrival (from overfeeding). Mason is relieved. Hamster escapes. Mason is relieved. Cat has to go back because best friend Brody is too allergic to ever be at their house while Cat is there. Mason is relieved. But when Dog comes, it


Soon-to-be fourth-grader Mason Dixon does not want a pet, but his parents think it will be good for him. Goldfish dies soon after his arrival (from overfeeding). Mason is relieved. Hamster escapes. Mason is relieved. Cat has to go back because best friend Brody is too allergic to ever be at their house while Cat is there. Mason is relieved. But when Dog comes, it takes a little dose of jealousy for Mason to realize he does want a pet, all of his very own. Claudia Mills introduces a new, hilarious character in Mason, and each of the three books about him will feature both boys as they cope with a new experience; pitch-perfect for 8- to 10- year-old newly independent readers, the books will maintain a consistent page count and feature black-and-while art throughout.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Phyllis Kennemer
Mason is not a pet person. Mason does not want a pet. But his well-meaning parents are sure that he needs a pet because he is an only child. Mason's best friend Brody wants a pet, but his dad has allergies. As Mason goes through his disastrous experiences with a goldfish, a hamster, and a cat, Brody is at his side loving each of the animals. Brody goes with Mason and his parents to the local pound to look for a dog. Mason has no desire to have a dog, but Brody is ecstatic. Brody offers to care for the dog even though it will live in Mason's home. Mason knows that Brody will not be able to follow through on his promise. Sure enough! Brody leaves for a weekend camping trip and Mason is left in charge of Dog. Mason and Dog bond during a thunder storm and by the time Brody returns Mason imagines he is in a contest with his friend. Who will Dog love the most? Of course, they discover that Dog has a heart big enough to love both boys. A side plot takes place at a summer art camp providing interactions with additional interesting characters. Black and white drawings contribute to the humor and theme of the story. A good choice for either independent reading or as a class read aloud selection. Part of the "Mason Dixon" series. Reviewer: Phyllis Kennemer, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 3–6—Mason Dixon is a curmudgeonly nine-year-old who prefers to wear brown socks, thinks all cookies should be Fig Newtons, and does not-repeat, does NOT-like pets. His parents are not put off by him, encouraging their only child to bond with a goldfish, a hamster, and then a cat. Mason's relationship with each one is, well, less than successful. But when his friend Brody, a joyful kid who wears his heart on his sleeve, overrides Mason's strident veto on getting a dog, things begin to change. Dog, a three-legged charmer, wriggles his way into the boy's good graces, and he learns to loosen up. His change in attitude is not without risk, though: Dog is injured, and Mason's friendship with Brody is nearly ruined. Mason discovers that smelling the roses sometimes means getting nicked by a thorn or two. Mills's account of this quirky kid and his trials and tribulations is both funny and touching. Tucked in among the tales of the daily grind of being a kid-bullies, exasperating parents, etc.-is a nice lesson about opening up to all of life's experiences. An enjoyable read with cartoon-style pen-and-ink illustrations scattered throughout—-Alyson Low, Fayetteville Public Library, AR

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Mason Dixon Series , #1
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.60(d)
780L (what's this?)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt


Mason Dixon didn’t mean for his pet goldfish to die. Really, he didn’t.

But he couldn’t honestly say that he was brokenhearted about it, either.

“Mom!” Mason hollered, staring down at the glass bowl where Goldfish lay floating on the still surface of the water. “Mom!”

He found her in the family room sorting socks. All of Mason’s socks were brown, but his mother sorted them, anyway, according to how worn the heels were. Mason didn’t like it if one sock was thicker around the heel than the other one.


She looked up from her sorting.

“Mom. Um—I think Goldfish is dead.”

“Oh, Mason!”

He followed her back upstairs to his bedroom, stumbling on one step to keep up with her as she ran. Did she think that if she got there in the nick of time, Goldfish could be saved through CPR?

Mason wasn’t sure how long Goldfish had been lying there. The last time he had stopped by to hang out with Goldfish for a minute or two had been that morning, and now it was midafternoon. Goldfish had seemed fine then. Or as fine as he ever had.

“Oh, Mason,” she said again as together they gazed down at Goldfish’s motionless little body. “Your first pet!”

Mason tried to look sad. He was sad, sort of. Poor Goldfish hadn’t had much of a life, swimming around in his bowl all day, in and out of his plastic underwater castle. In, out, in, out. Still, it was the only life Goldfish had had.

“How could he just die like that?” Mason’s mother asked, twisting the brown sock she held in her hand.

“Maybe he was old,” Mason suggested. He didn’t know how to tell if Goldfish was young or old. He didn’t even know how to tell if Goldfish was a boy or a girl. Mason had always thought of Goldfish as “him,” but he didn’t know for sure.

“We’ve just had him a week!” his mother wailed. “I don’t see how a perfectly healthy goldfish could die in just a week.” Then her face brightened. “Maybe we can take him back to the pet store, and they’ll give you another one! They must have some kind of guarantee for customer satisfaction.”

Mason must have looked upset, because she continued, in a gentler voice, “Mason, I know there will never be another Goldfish. Goldfish will always have a special place in your heart. But we can find a fish that looks as much like him as possible. We can even call the new fish Goldfish, if you want. Not that I ever thought that was such a good name.”

Mason didn’t know how to tell her.

“Mom. I don’t want a new goldfish.”

“But, honey—your father and I talked about this. You’re an only child. An only child should have a pet to talk to, to love. It was so good for you to learn how to take care of Goldfish.” She paused. “You did feed him every day, didn’t you?”

“Yes! I fed him twice a day, just like the man at the pet store said.”

“Twice a day?”

“Yes!” Mason was getting angry. She didn’t need to look at him like he was some kind of fish murderer.

“Mason,” she said. “The man said to feed him once a day.”

Had he? Mason had to admit that he hadn’t really been listening to all the man’s instructions about everything from how big of a bowl to buy for Goldfish to how often they were supposed to clean it. Besides, who ate once a day? Nobody Mason had ever heard of. Mason himself was hungry every fifteen minutes.

“That’s how he died, then,” Mason’s mom said, giving him an accusing look as she crumpled Mason’s brown sock for emphasis. “Overfeeding. Fish can die from overfeeding.”

So he was a fish murderer. But he hadn’t meant to be.

He’d be glad if Goldfish could come back to life and start swimming around in his bowl again.

Especially if the bowl were in somebody else’s house.

The goldfish, in Mason’s opinion, was just one more in a long series of bad ideas his parents had had about how to raise him. They always meant well. He had to give them that. But the history of the world was probably filled with bad ideas thought up by well-meaning people.

Take his name, for instance. That was bad idea number one. His father’s last name was Dixon, and his mother’s last name had been Mason, which could be either a first name or a last name. His parents had thought it was a good idea to make it Mason’s first name. Besides, there was a famous line called the Mason-Dixon Line between the North and the South during the Civil War, so his parents thought the name had a nice ring to it. They thought it was an unusual and distinctive name that still had a pleasingly familiar sound to it.

Basically, Mason had been named after a line.

Luckily, at school they wouldn’t study the Civil War until fifth grade, so other kids didn’t know about the Mason-Dixon Line yet. Mason knew that when they learned about it, year after next, he would suddenly have a new nickname that would stick with him for the rest of his life. Hey, Line! they’d say. How’s it going, Line? Ha, ha, ha, ha! So that was something to look forward to.

Mason’s parents, especially his mother, thought that variety was another good idea. (His father went along with her, but Mason could tell that usually his heart wasn’t in it.) She liked to try out new recipes from around the world: African peanut stew, a Brazilian potato salad that had olives in it. Both of those had been stunningly bad ideas. Peanuts were supposed to make peanut butter, not peanut stew. And olives were a bad idea even before they were mixed with cold potatoes and something called capers (another bad idea).

Meet the Author

CLAUDIA MILLS is the author of over 40 books for young readers.  Most of her books have no pets in them.  Until five years ago, Claudia never had a pet.  Now she is completely devoted to her cat, Snickers.  Snickers curls up next to Claudia in the early morning as Claudia lies on the couch in her home in Boulder, Colorado, drinking hot chocolate and writing. Visit Claudia at ClaudiaMillsAuthor.com.

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