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The evening before Emma begins fifth grade in a public school after years of being homeschooled, she goes with her dad, a game warden, to rescue a trapped rabbit. Expecting to see a wild rabbit, they are surprised to find one that is probably someone’s pet. Instantly enamoured by the frightened creature, Emma convinces her dad to allow her to care for the rabbit until someone claims it. When her dad agrees, Emma realizes, “It’s a powerful thing to rescue something. It changes both of you.”

As Emma navigates her new school—“an ending and a beginning at the same time”—her main goal is to make a friend. But despite her best efforts, she often says socially awkward things and is excluded from existing cliques. Not only that, she’s been paired for a project with a boy named Jack who isn’t like other kids. He has a hard time focusing and seems unaware of social expectations.

Jack befriends Emma, and later, Lapi—Emma’s pet rabbit. But Emma feels torn. It’s great Jack likes her, but if she hangs out with him, what will the other kids think of her? As Emma overcomes several obstacles, she realizes the truth of her older brother Owen’s advice: “You also have to be the friend you want to have.”

This gentle, emotionally-insightful novel for juvenile readers highlights the importance of family ties, the significance of a pet in a child’s life, the challenges faced by special-needs children, and the truth that friendship can be experienced in surprising ways with people and animals.

(Scholastic Press) 

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