Fifth grader Jeremy Norbeck can tell you how far a skunk can spray its stench and what kind of shrimp makes a noise like a firecracker. After all, he’s a master of wacky animal facts. When his father loses his job, it is up to Jeremy to find a way to keep his bearded dragon, hedgehog, and other unusual pets. Winning the lottery seems out of reach, so Jeremy launches his own business training new pet owners. Too bad the only customer he can find is the most annoying girl in his class. To top everything off, his best friend may be moving away. Things keep getting worse until Jeremy’s TV-obsessed, sugar cereal-addicted younger brother encourages him to try for a spot on a kids’ game show about animals. Could this be the break Jeremy has been hoping for?
“In this engaging middle-grade novel, a fifth-grader tries to find a way to earn money for the upkeep of his assorted pets. In young Jeremy’s room, “just about every flat surface…was covered with a cage or a tank containing an animal, or some kind of pet supply.” He loves to observe wild and domestic animal behavior. But money is tight after Dad loses his job, and Jeremy has a menagerie to take care of, including a growing lizard named Firebeard. His parents explain that “[i]t’s the economy. It’s happening everywhere,” but with Jeremy’s best friend, Zac, moving away, he can’t bear to lose his pets, too. He launches a business to teach people how to care for their pets, but it gets off to a rocky start when his first client turns out to be first-time dog owner Hallie, his snooty classroom nemesis. But when Jeremy’s couch-potato brother tells him about a kids’ TV quiz show with a big-money prize, Jeremy formulates a plan to get accepted as a contestant—and he aims to win. Debut author Dunlap’s deft narrative includes well-integrated animal lore as well as a light touch of humor: Mom practices taekwondo in the yard, and Dad has a green thumb and talks to his plants. The author also relates Jeremy’s compassionate, single-minded interest in all things animal with genuine feeling. In the end, one of Jeremy’s moneymaking ideas pays off unexpectedly for everyone—even Firebeard. A highly appealing novel for tweens about a resourceful animal lover and his family and friends, infused with gentle humor and informative tidbits about animals of all kinds.” —Kirkus Reviews
“I believe both boys and girls will enjoy this story. The writing style is right up their alley. The story moves at a nice pace. The characters are well drawn and likable. Readers will care and want to know if Jeremy can solve his problem. This will be a nice addition to a library.” —Writer’s Digest