Our rating: ****½

Just another walk in the woods. A bag of cookies, his dog Wowser, and his good friend Oscar—what else could Sterling North want? Then Wowser finds a den-full of raccoon kits, and the boys decide to take them home. They can’t take them home without the mother, so they determine to catch the treed raccoon . . . with the aid of no more than a pocket knife and their jackets. The results are laughable. In the skirmish, the mother and three kits escape, but one of the kits isn’t quick enough. Sterling takes tiny Rascal home and obtains permission to keep him. Getting the permission isn’t hard, as his mother is dead, his older sisters are living away from the house, and his older brother is fighting in the war. His father lives in a world all his own, only occasionally taking time to be with his young son. He doesn’t mind the raccoon—or the canoe Sterling is building in the living room. Everything progresses wonderfully until Rascal develops a taste for sweet corn. The angry neighbors, robbed of their crops, demand that Rascal be kept in a cage. How can Sterling lock up a young, wild creature? Some tough decisions face him and he has to answer them.

I love this book. It is so interesting and enjoyable. Rascal is such a cute raccoon! Sterling North does a wonderful job of telling the story. There are so many adventures and characters. The memorable incidents with his older sister Theo’s missing engagement ring, the school bully, and the pie-eating contest. Very funny and memorable. Unfortunately, there are a few evolutionary references and, if I remember correctly, a mild bad word or two.

Web Jam

Our rating: *****

Ashley and Austin Webster are finally out of the World Wide Web and life is going on normal back at Normal, Illinois – well, not really. The Chiddix Junior High School is holding an annual Young Vocalist Competition, and Ashley is one of the top ten finalists that have a chance at winning the prize: a spot in the televised national Young Vocalist Competition, and a pro Yamaha keyboard. Only a while before it’s her turn to sing, Ashley is accidentally sucked back into the Internet, and Aunt Jessi persuades Austin to send her after the girl. Austin tries to find them both and get them out, but the “perfect” Tucker Campbell, a girl competing for the prize, is out to make sure Ashley doesn’t get back in time.

This book doesn’t have any of the series’ main bad guys, but I still found it enjoyable. The ending is perhaps actually a bit different from one you may predict. I like Jessi and Ashley’s adventures on the web. The online concert is rather fun.

Black Star, Bright Dawn

Our rating: ****

Bright Dawn is an Eskimo girl whose father, Bartok, is a seal hunter. When Bartok narrowly escapes death by a hunting accident, losing four fingers in the process, some men approach him to run in the Iditarod dogsled race. He refuses, but says that Bright Dawn will do it. After some vigorous training, Bright Dawn and her team of dogs, including Black Star, who is mostly wolf, set out on the biggest adventure of their lives.

It’s interesting to get this first-hand look at what it’s like to drive a dogsled. I don’t think I could do it. There are some Eskimo superstitions in here. But it’s not your ordinary girl/dog hero story. The way the race ends is unexpected.

The Black Stallion’s Blood Bay Colt

Our rating: ***

Jimmy Creech, owner of the mare “Volo Queen,” is awaiting the arrival of the Queen’s foal. Jimmy, his friend George Snedecker, and a young boy named Tom, hope that this foal will become a famous horse. Sired by the Black Stallion, the colt turns out to be all they hoped for, but when Jimmy’s stomach pains grow worse, racing the colt becomes their last hope for the money they need to pay for Jimmy’s doctor bills.

Wonderful! The huge race at the end is heart-pounding action clear through. Walter Farley gives his characters such depth in this story, you feel like you know them. Tom’s Aunt Emma and Uncle Wilmer are funny. Overall, I like this one very much. It’s one of the better Black Stallion books, in fact, one of my favorites, after The Horse Tamer and The Black Stallion.

Cinnabar, the One O’Clock Fox

Our rating: ***

Cinnabar is a fox who dearly enjoys to participate in fox hunts. So much so, that he is known as the One O’Clock Fox who always shows up at One O’Clock and will run until night-fall. The historic chase that takes place in this book is between Cinnabar (affectionately called “Cinny”) and a party of men including George Washington.

This book is great! It’s so amusing to read about Cinny and his wife, Vicky, and their four children, Rascal, Pascal, Merry, and Mischief. The copy I read had great illustrations in it, but I don’t know what you’ll be able to find, as this book is out of print. It’s perfect for a chuckle or two.