The Legend of Diamond Lil: A J.J. Tully Mystery by Doreen Cronin
(Summary taken from the back cover of the book) "After his last run-in with Vince the Funnel and the mystery of the missing chicks, J.J. the search-and-rescue dog is ready for some much needed R & R. But just when he thinks he has everything under control, there's a new problem to worry about: Diamond Lil, a shiny new dog who's taken up residence next door. Suddenly Moosh and her chicks are spending an awful lot of time with their fancy friend, talking about weird things like fluffy feathers and good posture. And Lil's not the only new kid cramping J.J.'s style. There's a possum loose, and it's up to J.J. to keep everyone safe. But the questions keep piling up. Is Lil all that she seems? And how does the possum keep finding her way to the chicken coop?"
I hate to admit it, but it took me quite awhile to figure out what was going on in this story, who all the characters were, and what in the world was happening. I seriously had to read the first few chapters a couple of times before I finally figured it out. I know, dumb, right? I can read Charles Dickens no problem, but this?? My daughter's second grade teacher picked this book for this month's book group, and so I sat her down and we started reading. At first we were taking turns reading chapters, but it was a little difficult for her, so I ended up just reading it to her. Once I started reading consistently I think we both understood it a little better. When I read that summary above I realized that this is not the first book; maybe it would have been easier if I had read the first book already. For example, he mentions a "Barb" and I had no idea who that was until later in the story when I finally figured out that was his owner. The voice of J.J. the search-and-rescue dog is a little sarcastic, and that threw me off in a children's book. So anyway, as the story continued I figured it all out and I actually began to enjoy it. I enjoyed the ending and how it all came together. Once I figured out that Moosh was the mom chicken and her babies were Dirt, Sugar, Poppy, and Sweetie, and that J.J. lives in the same backyard and watches over them, it all became much more clear. So anyway, I liked it, and I think my daughter did to. I did have to stop and explain things to her like what cornstarch is, that Roberta is a girl's name, and what "you look like the back side of bad weather" means. There are quite a few phrases like that, and a second grader has no idea what they mean. Overall I liked it and think it is a good read for second/third graders. It's clean except for some potty talk. I think it's a really good read-aloud so you can stop and explain things the children don't understand. It is a mystery, so it would be a good pick for kids who like the mystery genre.
Rating: G (Clean!)
Recommendation: Second grade and up. It may be too difficult for the second grader to read and understand on her own, but makes a good read-aloud. A third grader would understand more of it, I think.