Review! Dirt by Denise Gosliner Orenstein

By Denise Gosliner Orenstein
224 pages – ages 8-12
Published by Scholastic Press on July 25, 2017

Synopsis from the Publisher- “Things are hard for eleven-year-old Yonder. Her mother died and her father has sunk into sadness. She doesn’t have a friend to her name . . . except for Dirt, the Shetland pony next door.

Dirt has problems of his own. He’s overweight, he’s always in trouble, and his owner is the mean Miss Enid, who doesn’t have the patience for a pony’s natural curiosity. His only friend is Yonder, the scrawny girl next door. So when Miss Enid makes the cruel decision to sell Dirt for horsemeat, Yonder knows she has to find a way to rescue him. Even if that means stealing Dirt away and sneaking him into her own house. What follows will make you worry, will make you cry, and will ultimately fill you with hope, love, and an unshakable belief in the power of friendship. Especially the four-legged kind. ”

What I Thought- I had mixed feelings about this book. The intended audience is ages 8-12 and I felt it was a tad heavy for that age. Unlike most young middle-grade stories, this one had no real solution to the problems to even say that they worked out in the end, even if it wasn’t the solution the reader was hoping for. Honestly, I think Orenstein is trying to tell a Young Adult story in a lower Middle Grade book – she has so many great aspects to the plot, but then throws in a lot of material suited for an older audience. Yonder has so many problems, it weighs the story down. Plus no one seems to notice and offer help to Yonder.  That being said, the story has so many wonderful aspects – a window into bonds between animals and kids with disabilities, kids in poor circumstances – I think if this novel was geared toward a bit older audience and given a bit more to the story, it would be spectacular. If you have a tween who likes sad stories or a teen who is looking for a quick read, this book is well worth a try.

I give this book three out of five bookworms.

Categories: Age 12+

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9 replies

  1. The boundaries between middle grade and YA can be a bit blurred sometimes.I had a Shetland pony when I was young so I have a soft spot for them. The bond between a child and an animal can be very strong.

    • I agree. The boundaries can be blurred, and usually that means that it is a lighter YA or a slightly darker MG. But this book had so many YA characteristics shoved into a fairly small MG – a size for usually younger kids. I think there was a good premise, but it was just presented in a way that could have been better.
      How did you come to have a Shetland?

  2. It’s good to see you back, Erik! 🙂

  3. Your review initially had me thinking, if a reader liked Charlotte’s Web, they might like this, but are you saying they’re not as similar as I may have thought?

  4. You’ve made some very helpful points about the difference between MG and tween/YA books. Also helpful because I just read a book that was listed as MG and I thought it was meant for adults!

    • It is definitely a blurry line between the two, and I think that most books can get away with being slightly younger/older than their respective category, but there are always books that make you stop and think about such things.

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