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From the Great Critter Capers series, volume 1

by Katie Davies & illustrated by Hannah Shaw

Age Range: 8 - 12

Pub Date: May 3rd, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4424-2062-5
Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Fans of Ivy and Bean will enjoy meeting their counterparts across the Pond: best friends and next-door neighbors Anna and Suzanne. Together, the girls sow happy chaos in their English village, along with Anna’s little brother, Tom, Joe-down-the-street and assorted human and animal enablers. Anna, the narrator, has her heart set on a new pet. Their current one, New Cat, acquired to replace the more accommodating Old Cat (victim of a sad mishap), is fierce and unfriendly (handlers are advised to wear gardening gloves). A successful wheedling campaign and coincidental sad family event produce results: two hamsters, both certified (wrongly) as female. Ere long, a blessed event ensues. Like life, novels unfold while the characters—Anna, in this case—are busy making plans, and Anna’s fountain of ideas convincingly tracks the busy 9-year-old mind down to the smallest, delightful detail. Inspired use of simple words, straightforward syntax and effective repetition make this a top pick for slow or reluctant readers. The art is clever, but the cartoonish style with limited affect might mislead readers expecting a Captain Underpants experience. Be warned: Under the plot’s frothy surface lie serious depths (hint: Look at the title). An auspicious debut, with a sequel (The Great Rabbit Rescue) waiting in the wings. (Fiction. 8-12)