The Legend of Diamond Lil

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
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Funny, clever dog-next-door mystery good for early readers.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Kids will pick up interesting tidbits about everything from search-and-rescue work and dog shows to the care of farm animals in the course of this adventure, and may be moved to find out more about these topics.

Positive Messages

As the plot unfolds, it's clear that loyalty and devotion are good things -- and also that first impressions can sometimes lead you astray. More than once characters get the wrong impression about someone else, sometimes because they're being quietly misled, but other times because they jumped to conclusions too hastily.

Positive Role Models & Representations

J.J. is very loyal to his human, Barb, and staunchly committed to keeping the hen Moosh and her brood of chicks safe, even though they can, he says, be annoying. Lillian is a more complex character than she initially appears, but a good, loyal friend and brave guardian. The two moms will stop at nothing to protect their children and forge an unexpected bond as a result.

Violence & Scariness

There are various nonspecific allusions to the terrible things possums can do to chickens, and to Barb's loss of a whole flock of chickens to a possum before J.J.'s time, and J.J. takes very seriously his job of preventing any such thing from happening again. So there's a constant atmosphere of vigilance against the persistent, scary possum who keeps coming back to the henhouse.


Several allusions to "pee," mainly in the barnyard context and for tracking purposes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Legend of Diamond Lil is a follow-up to The Trouble with Chickens, the first chapter book by best-selling picture book author Doreen Cronin (Duck for President, Dooby Dooby Moo), and continues the barnyard adventures of retired search-and-rescue dog turned detective J.J. Tully. Plenty of humor, plot twists, and character developments, which may overwhelm some kids but will really tickle others.

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What's the story?

After all the adventures described in The Trouble With Chickens (the first book in this mystery series), retired search-and-rescue dog J.J. Tully is ready for some peace and quiet in the barnyard. But between the fact that a possum is determined to break into the henhouse, and the fact that the hen Moosh and the chicks are spending all their time with Lillian, a mysterious white dog next door, and acting quite strange, peace and quiet don't seem to be on the agenda.

Is it any good?

Between the plot complications, the wacky characters, and the wisecracks on the side that are clearly directed at the adult bystanders, not all kids are going to have the patience for this one. But for those who do, there are plenty of rewards, especially if they like characters with names like Vince the Funnel (a dachshund who seems eternally cursed with one of those veterinary lampshades) and frequent surprises. Not to mention interesting lessons about search-and-rescue operations, dog shows, and finding common ground in unexpected circumstances.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about search-and-rescue dogs and the work they do. Do you know about natural disasters in your area that dogs are specially trained for?

  • When did you start to think that maybe Lillian wasn't telling the whole story? What did you think might be going on instead?

  • How do you think Lillian got such a wrong impression from what she overheard her owner saying? Do you think she did the right thing, considering what she believed?

  • If you read The Trouble with Chickens, the first book in this mystery series, how do you think The Legend of Diamond Lil compares? Do you like it as much?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love chapter books

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