In this illustrated children’s book, talking animal friends have adventures, solve problems, and help others.
Livingston Cove, in upstate New York, is home to some “very special animals” who love to do good works. At first, the gang has three members: Ella Bella, a calico cat; Mr. McGovern, a dog; and the terrier next door, Paddy. They meet Tank, a pit bull, who’s hungry and alone after his owners abandoned him. They listen to his story and take care of him until new, better owners are found who already have a pit bull puppy. The four friends then retrieve a bracelet from a thieving crow; set off to the Great Lakes in search of adventure but rethink it after learning of possible dangers (“being eaten was not an adventure at all”); and meet the fifth and final member of the gang, Duke, a military dog. He’s seen many scary and sad things and can’t remember where he comes from. Then the five friends chase off an apple-stealing fox and help Sally, a mean, abandoned cat, find a new home with a kind farmer. In her debut, author Davis sometimes goes to unexpectedly dark places, although each story ends happily. Tank’s first owner, for instance, “had left him to die”; Duke doesn’t want to remember his past because “it hurts too much”; and Sally was left behind by uncaring owners, which “was terrible to her.” But the stories do a nice job of capturing the characters’ individual personalities. The thieving crow in “Ella Bella’s Lost Charm,” for instance, shows his mischievousness by first denying he has the bracelet, then ungraciously bargaining for it: “Okay, I found your precious bracelet; what will you give me for it?” Ella Bella replies, “I will not come up the tree and eat you…!” The attractive, uncredited illustrations successfully help to tell the story, as when they show Tank’s wartime activities in thought balloons.
A collection that may sometimes be tough for the tenderhearted, featuring a distinctive animal cast.