Intrepid 9-year-olds Anna and Suzanne tackle their latest pet challenge with customary ingenuity, elaborate plans and lists, and allies old (Mr. Tucker and Mrs. Rotherham) and young (Anna’s cookie-loving brother, Tom).
Having lobbied her parents for a new dog ever since they sent Barney to a farm where “he’s much better off,” Suzanne’s thrilled to inherit Aunt Deidra’s Beatrice, an ancient, smelly, incontinent Newfoundland who remains stubbornly inert until Anna crawls under Beatrice and heaves upward while Suzanne tugs her leash to get her moving. Anna’s reluctance to lie under Beatrice each day, inhaling her rich aroma, is forgiven when she makes a discovery: Beatrice is depressed! To boost her spirits, the girls bathe her in Suzanne’s baby brother’s bath (his diapers come in handy). Anna contributes her dad’s electric toothbrush and her mom’s perfume. Elderly neighbors pitch in (Mrs. Rotherham’s underpants play a role). Then a huge vet bill with the promise of more to come has Suzanne’s parents murmuring that Beatrice would be better off elsewhere. Not if the ever-resourceful duo can help it! Davies doesn’t sugarcoat harsh realities; family financial constraints, mendacious parents and intimations of mortality—animal and human—lurk amid the hilarity, lending understated pathos to the proceedings. Shaw’s quirky art continues to charm (Miss Matheson’s snappy dog is a treat).
Characteristically funny, this concludes a British series that has been a breath of fresh middle-grade air. (Fiction. 8-12)