Friday, September 27, 2013

The Sasquatch Escape (The Imaginary Veterinary #1) by Suzanne Selfors

What kid doesn't like stories about Bigfoot or dragons or snake-haired witches? Ten-year-old Ben thinks his summer is ruined because he has to spend it with his grandpa in a small town where nothing happens. When the cat literally drags in a baby dragon, things change in a hurry. Ben discovers a fantastical world with mythological creatures who are cared for by a Veterinary Doctor. When Ben and his friend, Pearl, deliver the dragon they accidentally set a sasquatch free who is being treated for foot fungus. Tabby, the assistant to the Doctor, gives them a kit to catch it and off they go as it wreaks (or reeks - its smells awful) havoc on the town. Funny how people see what they want and describe the sasquatch as a sloth or big dog. An enjoyable read for younger kids, but one that doesn't rise above the pack of middle grade books. I can see myself forgetting what it is about as I trek through my usual mountain of books this year.

The plot is solid and the book sets up for a series. The characters don't change much internally. Ben's parents are struggling with marital problems and Ben deals with it by "telling stories" that are basically lies. When he is with his grandpa he decides to not tell stories which shows it is probably good he is separate from his arguing parents. Pearl is always in trouble because she's usually bored and trying to make her life exciting. She doesn't change and influences Ben to take risks like she does. The two form a friendship from their unique experience. Victoria and her mom are the villains. They are the busybodies who feel important if they know everything. None of the characters have great depth and the divorce issue isn't really delved into except that Ben feels bad his parents fight. The simple plot makes it an easy read and straightforward adventure.

Many questions I had were not answered such as how the creatures get to the doctor, who Tabby really is, how come the veterinary clinic came to a small town, and why Victoria and Pearl are enemies over some revealed secret. Quite a bit is unbelievable and should be funny to the young reader such as the deaf seniors who feed the sasquatch pudding and can't smell his horrendous odor. I'm not sure a senior would like the stereotypical portrayal. My daughter's grandparents played sports with her so I have a completely different image of seniors in my head. Actually I find it hard keeping up with my husband's parents. They are a bottomless well of energy. Perhaps I'm noticing stereotypes in literature more because there was an interesting discussion about it on Rutgers listserv. Whatever the case, Ben's grandpa takes naps and goes to the senior center that allows Ben to do what he wants with Pearl. The plot can move forward with a grandpa like him.

The sasquatch is not scary but friendly. This is contrasted with the dragon that breathes fire and almost burns Ben or the Doctor who is missing fingers and has scars on her face and neck from presumably battling dangerous creatures. For the most part, the tone is light and there is humor sprinkled throughout the story. When the Doctor takes the two on as apprentices the plot starts to become more interesting and I felt that I would get more answers to my questions, but this happens at the end of the book setting up for the following books in the series. The author has some questions and connections to subjects in an afterward. If teachers want to use it as a read aloud, there are activities that can be used in the classroom. I liked the information on Wyverns and the differences between Asian and Western dragons in literature. If you are the type of reader who likes more of a realistic setting with a touch of fantasy, then give this one a go. Personally, I felt the unanswered questions made it seem incomplete.

3 Smileys

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