The Great Pet Heist and The Newspaper Club — Kids Books About Pets and Friendship

If you are around kids who enjoy reading books where animals do brave things and act like people — The Great Pet Heist is a wonderful book for them.

If you are around introverted kids who are struggling to adjust to living in a new place — The Newspaper Club has characters who they should be able to relate to.

If you are around kids who just want to read fun books — I recommend both! Keep reading for more details about these books that are perfect for grades 3-5.

The Great Pet Heist The Newspaper Club

The Great Pet Heist, by Emily Ecton (copyright 2020)

Brief Summary

This story is about five pets who worry their owner will never return after she suffers a serious injury. A dog, cat, bird, and two mice team up to think of ways that they can keep living in an apartment without a human to take care of them.

They realize a neighbor has lots of coins. If the animals can get those coins out of this evil man’s apartment, they can have enough money to take care of themselves. They spend lots of time discussing detailed plans to get this money, some of which depend on a young girl who periodically stops by to take care of them. Their plans change drastically near the end when they realize this girl’s safety is more important than money.

Teachable Moments

I love the way each pet uses their unique talents to pull off the heist. It’s a cool way for kids to learn that working as a group can be a positive experience when everyone uses their own talents to achieve a goal.

I also like how the pets keep working toward their goal when their plans are not successful. There are several scenes where they spend a long time making detailed plans, but something goes wrong. They have to keep trying and revising their plan until it works. It’s a wonderful way for kids to learn why they should not give up.

Things to Keep an Eye On

The man with the bag of coins is NOT a nice guy, so it’s easy to cheer for the pets to be successful in their heist. However, one part of the book bothered me a bit. As the pets are gathering evidence to prove that this man isn’t nice, they see him not say anything to the doorman as he leaves the apartment building. This is one of several events that lead them to believe the man isn’t nice.

I’d make sure kids realize that seeing a person quietly walk past someone without greeting them is NOT a sign of that person being evil. There are several other scenes where the man’s actions show he’s not nice, like when he talks to the young girl in a super rude manner. However, I’d make sure kids understand that not saying “hello” to the doorman should not count as evidence that he’s a mean person.

Final Grade: A-

A review by School Library Journal on the back cover says, “A story sure to charm children who like to imagine what their beloved pets are up to when they are away.” This perfectly summarizes why The Great Pet Heist will be a hit with kids who love animals!

Resources

I’ve created 10 quizzes and 10 writing prompts to help you teach this book. They are available for $4.95 in my TpT store. These are great for quick comprehension checks and for helping your kids think about the events on a deeper level. Everything is in a Google Form too.

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The Newspaper Club, by Beth Vrabel (copyright 2020)

Brief Summary

Nellie is a young girl who has to get used to some big changes in her life. Her parents used to work at a newspaper until they recently got laid off. Nellie, who loves journalism, misses visiting their newsroom and helping them with their stories. Additionally, her mom has decided to move them to a small town called Bear Creek. Nellie misses living in a big city, where there were parks, shops, and street vendors everywhere. Nellie has no idea how she’ll ever be happy in Bear Creek until she notices some suspicious activity at the park. Since the local newspaper won’t cover this story, Nellie puts her journalism skills to good use to uncover what is happening. She also makes friends with several kids who help her publish a newspaper that provides the locals with some much-needed news about Bear Creek.

Teachable Moments

As someone who graduated with a journalism degree, I loved reading about a young kid with a passion for writing. I feel like writing is a skill that kids don’t pursue often enough. Writing gets overlooked for sports, music, etc. Those are great, but I’m sure you have some amazing writers in your class too! Hopefully, reading Nellie’s story will help kids see that writing can be a terrific way to make friends, have a positive impact in the community, and build confidence.

As someone who is introverted, I also enjoyed reading a book where the main character describes her struggles to make friends. Nellie is in gifted classes at school, but when she’s around kids, she has a difficult time thinking about what to say. That’s a big reason why she’s never had friends her age — until moving to Bear Creek. It was heart-warming to see Nellie make friends through her newspaper work. It gave her something to work on with kids her age, which also helped her think of things to talk about. By the end of the book, Nellie has a solid group of friends and feels much better about living in Bear Creek.

I also loved that one of the main characters, Thom, has two moms. When Nellie meets Thom for the first time, his moms invite Nellie into their home for dinner. Eating a meal with Thom’s warm, welcoming parents is the first positive thing that happens to Nellie in Bear Creek.

Things to Keep an Eye On

There are a few characters who discuss having their parents die recently. If you have any kids who have lost a close relative, you may want to prep them about the topic being discussed in a bit of detail near the end of the book. The characters discuss how much they miss their parents and things they do to help them cope.

Final Grade: A+

As an introverted journalism major who likes to write, how could I not give this book the best grade possible!!??

Resources

I’ve also written questions and prompts for this book, which are available for $4.95 in my TpT store.

ALSO — There is a sequel to this! It is called The Cubs Get the Scoop.