| by Gennifer Choldenko|
illustrated by Eglantine Ceulemans
ages 4 to 9
Wendy Lamb / Random House
Fifth grade is not for amateurs, according to Liam. Luckily, he knows that being more than one-third nerd is not cool. Liam lives in the Bay area near San Francisco with his mom and two younger sisters. Dakota is fascinated by science and has a big personality but struggles to make friends; Izzy, a child with Down syndrome, makes friends easily and notices things that go past everyone else. Dad lives across town, but he's over a lot. And then there's Cupcake, their lovable German shepherd, who guards their basement apartment.
Recently, Cupcake has a problem—she's peeing in the house. The kids need to make enough money to take her to the vet before their landlord upstairs finds out. And Mom and Dad have said if Cupcake doesn't stop, they will find her a new home. But the kids will never let Cupcake go. Can they save her?
AWARDS AND RECOGNITION
Junior Library Guild selection
“Best known for her Tales from Alcatraz series, Choldenko writes for a slightly younger set in this celebration of family ingenuity. It's hard enough that fifth-grader Liam's parents divorced and now he, his two younger sisters, and their single mom live in an apartment in need of repair. Their beloved dog, Cupcake, won't stop peeing on the rug, and the landlord has given them three weeks to get rid of the dog—or they're all out. Episodic chapters balance depictions of the harsh realities of divorce and financial changes with amusing trial-and-error escapades as the siblings hatch moneymaking schemes to fund expensive vet tests. Along the way, the personality of each sibling shines through. Faced with more responsibility than other kids his age, Liam just wants to play tennis as well as Roger Federer—or at least to keep up with Moses, a new student who seems to have it all. Third-grader and total nerd Dakota is biding her time until she can cure cancer. Second-grader and avid hugger Izzy has Down syndrome, and her inclusion is not only seamless, but integral to the plot. Even when getting on each other's nerves, they rally together when it matters most. Expressive black-line art depicts their lovable antics as well as members from their diverse community. Liam and his family are white; his best friend, Dodge, has brown skin and is likely of Latinx heritage, and Moses presents black, among other secondary characters of color. Reminiscent of Judy Blume's work, this endearing story will make many children laugh and allow some to see a part of themselves.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review