________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 17. . . .January 3, 2014


Riley Knows Best. (The Puppy Collection).

Susan Hughes. Illustrated by Leanne Franson.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2013.
89 pp., pbk., $6.99.
ISBN 978-1-4431-2410-2.

Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.

Review by Kate Hachborn.

*** /4



“Who was that?” Maya asked. Her large brown eyes were concerned. “What’s wrong, Kat?” Then, a moment later, her face cleared. “Oh, that was her, the new girl. Right?”

Kat nodded. “Yeah, it was Grace. Do you think she heard me say I didn’t like her? And that she looks mean? She may have seen the Puppy Collection. What if she tells everyone about it, just to get back at me?”

“Well, we’ll just have to hope for the best,” Maya said, with a shrug. “Maybe she didn’t hear or see anything. Plus, you only just met Grace. You don’t really know what she’s like yet.”


Kat and Maya are best friends who both want what they can’t have – a puppy. Though their parents won’t let them have a pet of their own, Maya and Kat help out at Tails Up, a dog grooming and boarding business owned by Kat’s aunt. Kat and Maya help take care of Riley, a golden retriever being boarded at Tails Up, but soon their focus shifts to Grace, the new girl in Kat’s class. Grace makes mean faces, and Kat decides that she does not want to be friends with the new girl, even though they sit beside each other. Kat and Maya need to decide if there is room in their lives for a new friend and a new dog.

internal art     Second in “The Puppy Collection” series, Riley Knows Best seems to be yet another contribution to the “kid wants dog” storyline. Though the cover and series title definitely support this impression, the plot tends more towards the social issues that Kat and Maya face at school with the introduction of a new girl. Kat and Maya are in different classes, which can be challenge enough for some friendships, but the girls’ behaviour makes this a non-issue. The introduction of Grace then creates further complications: the meaning of being a good friend, the importance of making room for new people in your life, the influence of other people on personal decisions. Hughes pulls readers into the story with the framework of a dog-related business, but the plot addresses character development rather than a one-dimensional dog story.

     Chapters are fairly short for readers transitioning to chapter books and contain illustrations throughout the text. The vocabulary is age-appropriate, and there is some description of specific dog breeds and dog training terms. Readers familiar with Ben Baglio’s “Animal Ark” series will enjoy “The Puppy Collection”.


Kate Hachborn is a library technician at the W. Ross Macdonald School in Brantford, ON.

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