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“You can control how honest you are about your own feelings. You can control how much empathy you have for someone else’s situation,” Ms. McKinnon. –Ella Unleashed
by Alison Cherry
Ella didn’t think having a stepparent would be cool, but when her mom married Krishnan, Ella soon loved doing things with her stepfather. When Ella enters a junior dog show, Krishnan teaches her how to handle his champion dog, Elvis. Ella’s first attempts end in embarrassing disasters; however, she isn’t giving up. She is determined to win the prestigious National Dog Show.
Ella wants everyone that she loves to see her perform in the next dog show, but her dad can’t stand to be around Krishnan. Ever since her mom and dad’s divorce, Ella’s dad has been lonely and depressed. When Ella’s friends suggest she find her dad a new girlfriend, it seems like the perfect idea. A new girlfriend will lift his spirits and hopefully make him want to come to her next dog show.
When Ella and her friends create a fake online dating profile for her dad, Ella’s convinced that nothing can go wrong. But soon, Ella realizes that her plan isn’t as perfect as she thought. Can Ella find the perfect girlfriend for her father? Will she manage to bring her divided life together in time for her moment in the spotlight?
Any tween with divorced parents will relate to Ella’s struggles. When it comes to winning a dog show, Ella thinks practice will give her the winning edge. When it comes to her father, she’s convinced that using scientific data will help her find her dad the perfect girlfriend. Soon, Ella learns that when it comes to dogs and people, it’s impossible to predict how they will react. In the end, all of Ella’s perfect plans led to hilarious disasters.
Any reader with a blended family should read Ella Unleashed. Although Ella does attend several dog shows, the majority of the story focuses on complicated human interactions. Through her experiences, Ella learns that she can’t control everything. The story also shows the importance of communication. At the end of the story, Ella and her father decide to go to counseling to help them work through some of their issues. Ella Unleashed is an easy-to-read story that uses compassion and humor to explore complex family relationships.
- While secretly signing her father up for a dating site, Ella and her friend are confused by the drop-down menu. They don’t know what demisexual and non-binary mean.
- While having dinner at a restaurant, two women discuss breaking up.
- A character mentions her “college roommate and her wife.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- While at a restaurant, a lady orders a glass of Malbec.
- While on a date, a woman “is making big sweeping hand gestures as she talks. . . Beth flings her arm to the right, and her hand smacks directly into the server, who’s about to put down their drinks. . . two full glasses of red wine go flying.”
- When going to a house for dinner, a woman brings wine.
- “God,” “OMG,” and “Oh my god” are used excessively as an exclamation. For example, a boy tells his siblings, “God, both of you shut up! I hate you!”
- Ella is preparing for her bat mitzvah by “learning my Torah portion.”
- While at a dog show, a judge inspects Ella’s dog, who is acting like he has to go to the bathroom. Ella prays that “she doesn’t put her hands anywhere near his bladder.”
- Ella pretends to be surprised by something her dad said. Ella prays “my surprise looks genuine.”