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Children's LiteratureThird-grader Owen takes charge of the science project, railroading his best and a bit squeamish friend Joseph into working with a lizard. Oops, make that tadpoles, when the lizard poops on Owen's hand. With two bowls of frog eggs, Owen decides to put "a little bit" of pesticide into the experimental group when he reads about malformed frogs as a result of fertilizer run-off. When he does not tell Joseph and tadpoles in the control dish die, Owen cannot figure out what has happened. But the science fair project is ruined, he thinks. When he confesses his private "experiment," both his friend and his mother confess to overfeeding the tadpoles. Still, Owen and Joseph turn the project into a success on science fair day. This fifth book in the "Owen Foote" series can stand alone and is a tight, well-written story, with a zinging conclusion, and a minimum amount of attention paid to Owen's annoying older sister—a plus for boy readers. Cat Bowman Smith's line and wash illustrations add personality to the characters and help readers see the errant lizard pet clearly, a real plus for this winner. 2004, Clarion, Ages 7 to 9.
—Susan Hepler, Ph.D.