In Rosenberg’s debut middle-grade novel, an 11-year-old girl and her pals search for stolen pets in their quirky Indiana town.
Young Indiana Bamboo loves animals, and even though she has a large brood of pets at home, she loves to visit Mr. Humperdink’s shop, Paradise Pets. The owner, a former wildlife rehabilitator, offers typical pet-shop mainstays, such as a cockapoo puppy named Princess Penelope and a macaw named Hendrix, but he also houses exotic animals that he rescued from an illegal carnival. Indiana’s favorite of these is Maurice, an ice cream–loving brown bear with whom she often has tea and one-sided conversations. A few days before her 11th birthday, Indiana is shocked to hear that Paradise Pets has apparently been robbed of its animals. Later, at Stefano Stefano’s Ice Cream Parlor, she overhears a suspicious gentleman saying, “be there with the money—all the money—or you’re never gonna see that cuddly bear and his furry friends again.” Indiana, her best friend Jamie Doolittle, and a neighborhood boy named Tom Weaver (who may know more than he’s letting on) traipse around their small town of River Creek on a quest to rescue their animal friends. Most of this book maintains a lighthearted tone, although Indiana’s search also touches on some heavier themes, such as animal abuse, and she gets into some dangerous situations, including being trapped in a truck. Indiana is an appealingly plucky heroine, and the plot is smooth and fast-paced. Although the ending isn’t a total surprise, there are some intriguing twists and turns beforehand that readers may not expect. The prose also has fresh and clever moments, such as when Indiana says, “My brain was usually...full of ideas, they crashed around like bumper cars at the Indiana State Fair.” Many elements require a suspension of disbelief, however, such as the aforementioned “blueberry-peppermint crunch ice cream eating, lemongrass tea drinking” brown bear—who also dances and wears a cape.
An action-packed story that’s full of adventure, mischief, and animal fun.