Michael Scotto, illustrations by Evette Gabriel. Midlandia Press, 2011. (review copy) Latasha is a typical 8 year old third grader. She has a mom who works long hours and goes to school trying to get a better job, and who is often too tired at night to play games or pay much attention to her. After school Latasha stays with a babysitter who lives downstairs in an apartment that smells like the strange soup she is always cooking. Mrs. Okocho grumbles about the way Latasha's puppy zooms around the apartment upstairs with way too much energy, shaking the ceiling and rattling the chandelier. Latasha is afraid her pup, named Ella Fitzgerald, is going to cause too many problems and get them all into trouble. She comes up with a scheme to get her new friend Ricky from across the street to help her get the puppy outside running around in the park to release the "zoomies".
Wonder what "zoomies" look like? Here's the author's book trailer to illustrate:
Wowza! That's a lot to handle in a small apartment! Good thing Ricky is eager go out with Latasha and Ella to search for wild turkeys in the park down the block... It works out fine until the Reading Challenge at school has Ricky feeling down and looking for a way around writing those book reports...
Things get complicated. Latasha is handling it though, and even when she gets down and worries about her mom or her dog or her friendship troubles, she always bounces back with new energy and a new plan. I like how the story presents life for a third grader as it is; full of troubles and uncertainty, but also full of new ideas and friends (and grown ups) around to help out in a difficult moment. This is a great book for second and third graders. I think it would make a great book club selection, especially for kids who love dogs.
Scotto has a sequel coming out next year titled Latasha and the Kidd on Keys. Can't wait to see it!