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The Nearly Calamitous Taming of PZ

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  58 ratings  ·  29 reviews
A foxhound has spent her life behind bars, known only by the PZ-5934 tatoo in her ear. PZ knows nothing but a laboratory cage. Inspired by the story of a real lab dog, she has never even seen the sun. But a superpowered diva ladybug named Dottie changes all that. The unlikely pair undertake a hilarious and adventurous road trip through civilization and end up finding a hom ...more
Paperback, 230 pages
Published 2014 by Bradley Street Press
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3.5 stars --“The Nearly Calamitous Taming of PZ” is an appealing Juvenile fiction novel peppered with professionally-done illustrations. Inspired by the author’s true-life experiences with a rescued hound, it’s the story of an ex-research dog who is learning to live in the big world outside of the laboratory. In a “Charlotte’s Web”-like twist, the confused pup has a helper in the form of Dottie, a sassy ladybug who is determined to help her succeed in her new home.

Despite the potentially grim s
Jul 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: challenge-17
I really enjoyed reading this book about a lab dog that is adopted by a young girl who lost her dad. The lab dog befriends a ladybug that helps him adjust to being free and taking on the role of a family pet. My cat is a rescue cat who has similar characteristics of Lolly J. A lesson in having patience with a pet and losing friends.
Kyle Wendy Skultety (
This review originally appeared on my blog at

Thanks to author Martha Ritter for gifting me this book for review! I had the pleasure of meeting her at BookCon 2015, and we had a wonderful conversation about many different things. We discussed a book called Nest by Esther Ehrlich that I had previously reviewed, and wondered if PZ could be comparable to it.

Happily, I can state that yes, PZ is just as wonderful, touching, funny, poignant, and full of good feels as NEST. The pl
May 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
(Review based on Advance Reader's Copy)

This is a charming, inspiring tale written for 8 to 12 year-olds of the friendship that grows between an 11-year-old girl, Olivia, and the gentle but damaged foxhound her family adopts from a shelter. The book carries echoes of Charlotte's Web in its depiction of the relationship between a young animal struggling to understand the human world and an insect/arachnid who gives wise advice and inspires courage. Likewise, near the end of the tale, there is an e
Martha Ritter
May 30, 2014 added it  ·  (Review from the author)
Ritter is at her best when grappling with her main characters' internal lives, outlining in an accessible, realistically paced way how the psychology of grief and trauma can give way to hope and love.

4 of 5 stars (Review based on Advance Reader's Copy)
This is a charming, inspiring tale written for 8 to 12 year-olds of the friendship that grows between an 11-year-old girl, Olivia, and the gentle but damaged foxhound her family adopts from a shelter. The boo
Susan Aller
Jul 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a story that could have been told as straight non-fiction about the plight of laboratory animals, but instead, Ritter has woven a charming, funny, and moving fiction about one dog and her transformation into a loved pet.
Based on the real life of a lab foxhound she adopted and "tamed," Ritter 's story also imagines a wise and charismatic ladybug named Dottie, who guides the dog -- and the reader -- along an adventurous road. There is also Olivia, a girl grieving the death of her father, w
Dena Hoberman
Aug 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
What a fabulous book for readers of all ages! I read this book aloud with my 8 year old who was likely a little young for some of its nuances about the hardened hearts and protective armor that tragedy brings to character, but even at her age, she was able to appreciate the big picture take-home about earning trust and building relationships one experience at a time. We loved taking our time reading aloud one chapter a night, and talking about the characters and their challenges. This was such a ...more
Frederick Campion
PZ moved me, deeply and delightfully. It is written with pure heart. I approached it as a dog lover, looking forward to a good “tail” about a creature freed from captivity. Early on, the conditions described in the laboratory are nothing short of harrowing, while the ladybug amenuensis is delightful, helping relieve the woes our heroine must survive. What I did not expect was Ritter’s ingenious twist in Chapter 13, which serves to springboard the book into a carefully observed chronicle of Olivi ...more
Erik Roth
Jan 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
With this endearingly enchanting and ultimately profound novel, Martha Ritter joins the lofty company of Antoine de Saint-Exupery and E.B. White. She weaves together a small cast of vivid characters who confront serious issues of trauma, abuse, death, loss, and rescue, yet does so in such a sensitive, loving way that readers will emerge from the story, just as the protagonists do, smiling, stronger, and wiser. We share in a young girl's wariness, thrill in her adventure, and find comfort in her ...more
Annelieke Schauer
You know, this really is a charming book. There's a lot between the pages for children and adults who love animals, have suffered losses, wonder what animals think, and care about the anatomy of a rescue and rehabilitation. The two main animal characters, a foxhound and a ladybug are unlikely friends, but then they also talk to each other, so no worries about that. Dotty, the ladybug, is the sort of friend we all need, a kind of life coach, perhaps, but she's in the relationship for the long hau ...more
Victoria Whipple
PZ is a breeder, a dog that is kept in a research lab with the sole purpose of breeding litter after litter of pups to be used in laboratory tests. PZ is rescued, and her whole life is turned upside down. PZ is adopted by a girl and her mother who struggle to tame PZ. This is a story that is sure to be a hit with animal lovers. While the first chapter describing life in the lab could be disturbing to some, the mutual search for love and family between the dog and the girl is heartwarming. The st ...more
Sara Truog
Nov 09, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club, for-nina
PZ, a dog who is raised in a laboratory to breed puppies who are used in experiments, is deemed extraneous and sent to a shelter. Because she has never lived outside of a cage, she must learn how the world works and how to interact with other animals and humans.

This book is a nominee for this year's Massachusetts Children's Book Award, and so I read it with a group of 4th-6th graders who are getting ready to vote for their pick to win that award. Sadly, I don't think this book is it. I found the
Joan Walden
Jul 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I received an advance copy of this book, so am one of the first to have read and enjoyed it! This is a very good read for any age (over 8). It's the poignant tale of a laboratory pup whose early life was devoid of human compassion and who had to learn to be a "real dog." Based on the life of an actual dog who had been rescued by the author, it has charm and wit with an undercurrent of seriousness. The animal characters are all well developed as are the humans, and the dialogue exchanged by the a ...more
Keven Wilder
Nov 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The Nearly Calamitous Taming of PZ is a terrific book! Although I'm not the target demographic and am not particularly a dog lover, I found this book to be captivating. Particularly the divine Miss Dottie, the diva ladybug who tutors PZ on how to adjust to the world of humans. Martha Ritter's insightful description that humans have to be tamed to make a home was a revelation. I loved Matt Ryan's wonderfully imaginative illustrations which add to the dramatic unfolding of the story. After I finis ...more
Oct 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Martha Ritter has provided the reader with hope for laboratory animals being adjusted back into a normal animal life after adoption. There are so many profound tidbits of information in this book for middle schoolers: routines are important in the dog's training (walking a square), demonstrated behavior may be taken as misbehavior (jumping on tables and raising a paw), and shaking and silence. I found the these details to be more interesting to me than the story with the lady bug, other dogs, an ...more
Ms. Garr
Grade 3 and up; on the 2015-2016 MCBA list. This story is a great choice for dog/animal lovers and fans of CHARLOTTE'S WEB; it is fiction but based upon the author's real and challenging experience of adopting a rescue dog that had been in a research laboratory her whole life. Kids will enjoy reading from the dog's (and ladybug's!) point of view and there's plenty of ups and downs to keep it exciting. The adult characters are sort of forced and seem to be in there to clumsily move the story to w ...more
Max H.
Aug 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all ages
Any pet owner or person who loves animals will feel good reading this book. You can really sense what the characters are going through. There are adventures and exciting situations while PZ explores the real world for the first time. This will keep you hooked.

This novel is very well written. As a kid, I liked that I was able to get into the story quickly. The characters are pretty unique and bring some funny and interesting spice to the story. It’s a good story about opening up and learning to t
Aug 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book would make a good Div.II.
It is based on the true story of Tess, a rescued laboratory dog, who needed to be socialized and to learn everything: How to walk, to trust in herself, to be a dog, and mostly to trust humans.
This would be a good read-aloud, and could spark discussion and research into the plight of laboratory animals.
It got a little wordy in places, but overall was good!
I can think of dozens of dog and animal lovers who will want to read this book.
Oct 25, 2015 rated it did not like it
Martha RitterThe Nearly Calamitous Taming of PZ: A laboratory dog's search for love
Nothing ever really happens. It started out OK but got really boring. It sometimes got hard to follow along with what was happening. I wouldn't recommend this book.
Deb Hellman
Dec 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most enchanting children's books I have read in my career as a mom of five avid readers. My youngest children (twins who are 10 years old), who read this book on their own, could not put it down, and felt that the characters were absolutely real and authentic. Ms. Ritter is clearly a talented and insightful writer, and a woman who has a heart for both animals and people. I highly recommend this book, and hope to see more from this delightful author! ...more
Jan 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very thoughtful and clever book about triumphing and overcoming the unfairness in life. A lesson for both young and old... I read it with my 10-year-old and it was enjoyable to us at different levels. It's such an intricate yet simple story. Ms. Ritter created a magnificently intelligent book. I can't wait to read more from her!
Jun 01, 2014 rated it liked it
I wish Goodreads gave half stars. I wanted to really like this book, but I felt there was something missing, and given the story, of a dog rescued from a lab, there might just have been. It's given me a lot to ponder, and good books do that. ...more
Ms.  Chicco
May 19, 2015 rated it did not like it
I don't know if I can read this one. I started it but the writing was very underwhelming and the lady bug character (Dotty, har har) was really annoying. I'm hoping that my dog lovers will enjoy it. ...more
Dec 27, 2014 rated it liked it
Okay book for middle schoolers or advanced elementary. Good story.
Jul 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Cute book, good for young readers.
Suzanne Dubbs
Jul 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: erik-s-library
I loved PZ so much!!! One of the reasons is that reminded me, as a reader, that you have to give others a chance. Not to mention I am an 11 year old that loved his puppy!!
Greg Allan Holcomb
Jun 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
I was flipping through this book because of the art, but the story pulled me in within a few pages. I want to find out how the dog gets out of the research facility, and I don't even like dogs. ...more
Heather Zottola
Jan 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Nearly Calamitous Taming of PZ was thoroughly enjoyed by a third grader in my class. She was hooked and couldn't put it down until she was done. Definitely a book for all ages! ...more
Jake Kramer
rated it it was amazing
May 20, 2016
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Martha Ritter wrote her first book when she was in the sixth grade. It was a huge volume about the Republic of Indonesia, which the president of the United States requested she give to Indonesia's president. Reluctantly, she complied--and nearly caused an international incident.

Despite this complication, Ms. Ritter has been writing ever since. A journalist, speechwriter, and poet, she has served a

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“Olivia to her foxhound:

You know what? The thing is, I needed taming, too.”
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