It isn't every day that a press release about the political climate of a little-known Eastern European country alters a boy's life, but for Timothy Malt, a middle-school boy whose lonely latch-key existence is comprised of school, computer games and limited conversation with his neglectful parents, a change is welcome.

When Tim discovers a small dog outside his London home, he knows he shouldn't pet it or, frankly, even talk to it. Both his mother and father loathe dogs. Their primary concern in life is how to obtain more money. But Tim, won over by the animal's beady black eyes and perky little tail, makes contact and in turn begins a quest for its owners. Tim's search sends him across the continent in search of the Raffifis, the family of the former ambassador of Stanislavia. His adventure is more than he bargained for, however, as he faces an evil dictator, makes a daring escape by helicopter, liberates accused traitors from a high-security prison and sneaks over the border with newfound friends. With spy adventure novels gaining in popularity for intermediate readers, Joshua Doder has hit the mark with A Dog Called Grk. Short chapters and the staccato style of the author's writing keep the plot moving at a rapid pace. The novel doesn't shy away from portraying true evil, including brutal deaths, but it is balanced with humor and the undying bravery of its child characters.

Already a popular series in Great Britain, the adventures of Tim and Grk will give young American readers a good reason to sit, stay and curl up with an entertaining book.

Jennifer Robinson is a teacher in Baltimore, Maryland.

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