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The Buddy Files: The Case of the Lost Boy Review by Courtney Larson

By Dori Hillestad Butler
Albert Whitman & Company
250 South Northwest Highway, Suite 320
Park Ridge, Illinois 60068

The Buddy Files: The Case of the Lost Boy is the first in a series of beginning chapter books (there are currently three in the series) about a detective dog named Buddy. These books are written on approximately a second-grade reading level, and they are aimed at ages 6-8. The sentences are short, the print is large, and there are black-and-white illustrations sprinkled throughout the text.

The book begins with Buddy wondering why he is in the pound. He had a family that loved him and called him King, but they never came back from a trip and he is determined to figure out where they are. He is adopted from the pound by a school principal (who is new to town) under the premise that he will be a service dog. However, the real reason he was adopted was to try and cheer up her 9-year-old son, Conner. Conner is sad because his parents have divorced and he's had to move to Minnesota from California, leaving his Dad and friends behind. Buddy is happy to go home with Conner and his mom because they live in Buddy's old neighborhood, so Buddy thinks he'll be able to find clues about the disappearance of his original family.

Conner takes Buddy on a walk, and while they are out they run into a man that Buddy deems dangerous. After this encounter, Buddy and Conner approach Buddy's old house, and Buddy breaks loose from Conner and starts inspecting his old yard for clues. When Buddy turns around, Conner is missing and Buddy is unable to find him. The rest of the story is spent attempting to figure out where Conner is, and the reader is led to believe that Conner was kidnapped by the dangerous man. In the end, Conner is found safe at the airport, where he was attempting to get back to California (he disappeared during the walk because he took the bus to the airport). The mystery of what happened to Buddy's original family isn't solved in this book, and it appears that the reader will have to read through book three to find out why they didn't return for Buddy.

While the reading level and format of The Buddy Files: The Case of the Lost Boy is perfect for readers just moving into chapter books, I'm not comfortable with the content. I really don't want my 8-year-old son reading a beginning chapter book that involves divorce and a subsequent move across the country without one parent, kidnapping, or running away. I also didn't appreciate that the original mystery presented (Buddy's original missing family) wasn't solved, and that I will have to buy another two books to find out why they haven't come back for him. My son would love to read a series about a detective dog, but because of the content I will not allow him to read The Buddy Files: The Case of the Lost Boy. Therefore, I cannot recommend this book.

Product review by Courtney Larson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July 2010