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To Night Owl From Dogfish

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
To Night Owl From Dogfish Book Poster Image
Sweet, funny tween tale of friendship and family.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Occasional bits of information on a wide range of topics, like what people in China call their country, a couple of word origins, what kind of fish a dogfish is.

Positive Messages

Real friendship means sharing not just good things, but also bad things openly and honestly; sharing bad things maybe even brings you closer. Don't listen to anyone who tries to tell you what a family is or isn't; listen to your own heart. It's OK if even the very best of friends sometimes get annoyed with each other, or sometimes want to do different things; real friendships are strong enough for that.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Bett, who's African American, is brave, curious, makes things she wants happen in her life. She sees the world in a unique way, figures things out for herself. Although her motives are good, she breaks rules, puts herself in dangerous situations but learns from consequences. Avery, who's white, has a more cautious, academic way of learning and looking at the world. She has anxiety issues, is afraid of a lot of things, but very bravely tries things out that are scary, and ultimately learns she's capable of more than she thought. Both girls are only children of single gay dads; adults in their lives are loving, caring, supportive.

Violence

A serious boating accident happens when tweens ignore safety rules. Blood in the water is mentioned. Consequences are serious and life changing, but there's a positive resolution.

Sex

One character was born to two dads by a surrogate; it's mentioned but not explained that she's the biological daughter of one of her dads. Some issues about surrogacy and legal issues mentioned. A first period is described as scary. Brief speculation about a same-sex relationship. A same-sex romance between two adults is a prominent plot element without mentioning anything specifically sexual about the relationship. Daughter of same-sex couple briefly mentions past verbal harassment.

Language
Consumerism

A few tech and other random products mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that To Night Owl From Dogfish, by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer, is a sweet tale of two girls who become best friends online. It'll appeal to reluctant readers, thanks to the short, breezy way the story is told by email and letter exchanges. Discussing the way the main characters start exchanging emails would provide an opportunity to talk to your kids about online communication with strangers. The two 12-year-old main characters are good role models in different ways. Bett is smart and proactive, and she and her family provide positive representations for African Americans. Avery is a good model for careful consideration and overcoming fears and dealing with anxiety. A same-sex romance between adults is a major plot element, but nothing specifically sexual is mentioned. Giving up custody of a child is an important part of the story. A boating accident mentions blood in the water and creates tension and suspense, but there's a safe resolution. A first period is described as scary. There are lots of positive messages about friendship and family, and seeing each other through good times and bad.

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What's the story?

TO NIGHT OWL FROM DOGFISH tells how two 12-year-old girls with opposite personalities, and who live on opposite sides of the country, become best friends, and maybe even family. At first the two resist their fathers' attempts to bring them closer together, but they eventually warm up to each other and learn that they actually make a pretty good team. Through summer camp adventures and meddling in their fathers' romance, they learn what if means to be a family, and what it takes to be a friend.

Is it any good?

Veteran authors Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer have teamed up to create a sweet, funny, and touching story of tween friendship and the ties that bind. To Night Owl From Dogfish is told exclusively through email exchanges and letters, unfolding the story from interesting points of view. The light, breezy format also adds a lot of appeal for reluctant readers.

Tweens will easily relate to the authentic, distinct voices of Avery and Bett as they explore what family and friendship mean through their dads' romance, and reunite with long-lost and distant loved ones. The plot is well constructed to keep the pages turning. Be sure to have a tissue handy for Avery and Bett's wedding toast.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how To Night Owl From Dogfish starts out with an email from a stranger. Why does Avery trust that Bett is who she says she is? What could go wrong communicating with someone that way? What are your family's rules about email, texting, and social media?

  • What are Avery's and Bett's character strengths? What do you like about them? What are their weaknesses?

  • What do you think makes a family? What about a good friend? How can families and friendships help you through hard times?

Book details

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