Sunday, October 26, 2014

Shelter Pet Squad #1: Jelly Bean (Shelter Pet Squad #1) by Cynthia Lord

This story draws on a child's desire to have a pet. Second-grader Suzannah lives in an apartment that does not allow them so she volunteers at the local animal shelter. She is part of the Shelter Pet Squad, a group of kids in grades 2-6 that play with the animals and make things for them. When a family brings in a pet guinea pig to the shelter because they are moving, Suzannah is determined to find it a home. She rallies the Pet Squad into advertising at the school in hopes that some teacher will step forward and adopt the pet for his or her classroom. Our students in third grade work with animal shelter dogs and adopt-a-pet for their classrooms. I know that teachers will like this book for their library or as a read aloud.

I was confused at the start of the book because the illustrations make Suzannah look older than grade 2. I didn't discover her age until after Chapter 1 and had a hard time getting an image in my head. A sweet tale emerges that shows how one person can make a difference in the life of an animal. I snoozed a bit in this slow, sweet, realistic tale directed at intermediate readers. These type of books tend to have a limited vocabulary and simple plots and words as readers gain fluency. This is the nature of intermediate books and the result is I find them forgettable for the most part. Perhaps my hyperactiveness works against me and my bias toward humor, fantasy, and action are too influential. Either way, you'll have to decide for yourself what you think about its pacing.

I like Cynthia Lord's middle grade books because of the tension she creates and depth in themes. She is one of the few writers that can sustain my interest. She just doesn't here. I actually took more interest in the broken-hearted dog, Bandit, thinking that the story might be about Suzannah trying to make friends with him. But Bandit is just an aside to showing that the animals at the shelter can find good homes. The real star is the guinea pig, Jelly Bean. Ironically, my dad used to call me "Barbara Jean, Jelly Bean" because I was always doing gymnastics around the house. I loved to cartwheel and spin in circles. Alas, this book just didn't have enough twirls for me.

3 Smileys

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