Readers who enjoyed the first will want to share this trip as well, but fresh ideas are needed if there's to be a third...


A boy, a dad, two dogs, and a much-needed field trip.

As in Road Trip (2013), Ben sets out on a journey with his dad. Ben plans to convince his father of his critical need to attend a new ice hockey academy. His dad may have other plans, however. They're accompanied by quite a crew: Atticus, the family's aging but wise border collie, who just wants to keep his flock of people together; Conor, their exuberant puppy; Brig, an always-hungry house-renovating apprentice; and twins Jacob and Charlotte, who are Ben's classmates. The supposed purpose of the expedition is to catch up with the rest of the class, which is on an extended field trip. Nothing ever works out the way it's planned, however, and the oft-silly action teeters on the brink of farce, as Ben tries to wangle an unscheduled hockey academy tryout, the twins attempt to broaden their educational horizons, Brig eats yet another strange concoction, and Atticus and Conor offer their own takes on the evolving situation. The Paulsens travel familiar ground; their first outing felt fresh, but this reads like something of a retread: gather some amusingly depicted, offbeat characters in a vehicle, add some father-son conflict, and take them on a bumpy ride.

Readers who enjoyed the first will want to share this trip as well, but fresh ideas are needed if there's to be a third journey. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-553-49674-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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Riveting, inspiring, and sometimes hilarious.


If you made a recording to be heard by the aliens who found the iPod, what would you record?

For 11-year-old Alex Petroski, it's easy. He records everything. He records the story of how he travels to New Mexico to a rocket festival with his dog, Carl Sagan, and his rocket. He records finding out that a man with the same name and birthday as his dead father has an address in Las Vegas. He records eating at Johnny Rockets for the first time with his new friends, who are giving him a ride to find his dead father (who might not be dead!), and losing Carl Sagan in the wilds of Las Vegas, and discovering he has a half sister. He even records his own awful accident. Cheng delivers a sweet, soulful debut novel with a brilliant, refreshing structure. His characters manage to come alive through the “transcript” of Alex’s iPod recording, an odd medium that sounds like it would be confusing but really works. Taking inspiration from the Voyager Golden Record released to space in 1977, Alex, who explains he has “light brown skin,” records all the important moments of a journey that takes him from a family of two to a family of plenty.

Riveting, inspiring, and sometimes hilarious. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-18637-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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An almost-orphan and a rescue dog share lots of heart in a winsome coming-of-age story.


After her mother succumbs to heart disease, 13-year-old Lydia goes to live with her mother’s older sister, Aunt Brat, and her wife, Eileen, in their small Connecticut town.

Almost immediately the loving couple adopts a large rescue dog that becomes mostly Lydia’s responsibility. The unfortunate animal isn’t even housebroken, and Lydia’s most decidedly not a dog person, so caring for Guffer is challenging. So is trying to be cordial—but not too friendly—with her 12 eighth grade classmates. Previously home-schooled, Lydia’s not quite ready for the friend thing. Secrets, like who could have been responsible for maiming two baby goats or why Brat is secretly caring for them at a neighbor’s farm, complicate life. Background plotlines (an angry neighbor who hates Guffer, Lydia’s absent father, and the cause of Guffer’s anxieties) all gradually evolve. Similarly, Lydia slowly learns to cope with her grief, sometimes aided by spending time with “the goddesses”—artistic collages of strong women that she and her mother crafted. Gentle, fully fleshed characters (most seemingly white) are lovingly drawn in this long tale of healing, but the pacing is sometimes frustratingly slow. Although she’s clearly intelligent, Lydia’s first-person narrative often seems more like the voice of an adult than a young teen. In spite of these minor flaws, her poignant tale is engaging and uplifting.

An almost-orphan and a rescue dog share lots of heart in a winsome coming-of-age story. (Fiction.10-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-279678-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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