The first in what promises to be a gentle and fun early chapter book series, the Carver Chronicles, introduces Gavin, a new third grader at Carver Elementary. As the book opens, Gavin struggles to hit his stride in his new school (also the setting for Nikki & Deja series). So far, he has succeeded in making only one friend: Richard, who chose Gavin for his kickball team, so he must be a "nice guy," but he takes advantage of Gavin's vulnerability.
Gavin, eager to impress Richard during a play date, invites him to snoop in his older sister Danielle's room. One broken snow globe and a lot of yelling later, Gavin finds himself saddled with an unpleasant task: he must earn the money to pay back Danielle by walking his Aunt Myrtle's yappy, pink-bow-wearing Pomeranian--every day after school, for a week. Although Gavin survives the humiliation of dog-walking, he fails to realize the fundamental problem: Richard is no friend at all. Readers will hope that he'll wise up as the series progresses.
At times the story drags a bit, but is always rescued by Karen English's engagingly simple, authentic writing, as in this excerpt from Gavin's journal: "Now I have to walk this ugly dog every day. A dog that's all the time giving me mean looks and showing her teeth and looking like she would like to bite me." A great find for young readers adjusting to a new neighborhood or school, and for any newly independent reader. --Allie Jane Bruce, children's librarian, Bank Street College of Education