Clover's Luck (Book 1 of The Magical Adoption Agency) by Kallie George (Disney-Hyperion February 3, 2015, out in paperback Oct 6) is a charming magical creature fantasy for the young--give this one to the third or fourth grader who dreams of having a magical pet of their own!
Clover is pretty sure she is utterly unlucky, and this feeling is confirmed when her pet bird escapes (she has especial bad luck with pets, which hurts, because she loves the so). She follows the escapee into the woods, very sorry for herself, and rather anxious, for the people in her village always made a point of staying far from the Woods, knowing the forest to be a strange and unchancy place. But Clover is plucky and keeps going, and sees a sign that seems to be written just for her, calling for volunteers who love animal s to help at the M.A.A.A. So follows the directions to The Magical Animal Adoption Agency, where no pet is too unusual to adopt.
And by "unusual" the agency really means "unusual"--enchanted toads, unicorns, and even a young dragon are currently in residence. Clover is thrilled to have found the best way imaginable to spend her summer! But when the proprietor of the M.A.A.A. takes off almost immediately, leaving Clover in charge, she has more responsibility than she wants. Strange folk come seeking to adopt the creatures, and it's up to Clover not just to feed and water the animals, but to make sure they are going to the right homes....which is a pretty challenging task that makes for fun reading! Lots of small twists and turns of story lead to happy endings, and Clover realizes she's not unlucky after all!
Like I said above, a nice friendly story great for elementary school readers who would rather cuddle dragons than slay them! There are nice bits of humor, and Clover is a pleasantly relatable protagonist, force to rise to a challenging occasion. Lots of good description brings the agency and its denizens to vivid life, and the sense that there is more magic out there beyond the Woods adds a touch of depth and complexity to the world building.
Clover's Luck is eligible for the Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction Cybils Award this year, but has not yet been nominated (edited to add--I take it back. It's been nominated as an early chapter book, although I am thinking it might be on the less early chapter book side of things....it's a fuzzy line). If you are interested in nominating an EMG Speculative Fiction book , or any other book from the past year in a variety of categories, please head over here to the Cybils Award site by Oct 15!