A misunderstanding at Animal Inn leads to anxiety.
The Tyler family (Mom, Dad, Jake, Ethan, and Cassie—who all lack racial markers in the text but have light skin in the black-and-white illustrations) once lived in a city apartment but now live out in the country. There they run Animal Inn (a combined pet hotel, school, and spa that offers further animal services, such as puppy birthday parties and reading activities) with their family pets as permanent residents (narrator Leopold the macaw, terrier Dash, chocolate Lab Coco, cats Shadow and Whiskers, and gerbils Fuzzy and Furry). As the story opens, the animals first hear that a wizard is coming but find greater terror in the clarification that the wizard won’t be the guest—the wizard’s dragon will be. The animals’ anxiety levels increase as they deal with the preparations of the inn for the new guest, even though at the halfway point one of the many guests (a miniature poodle, very French) relates an anecdote about unnecessary fear in the face of misinformation and misunderstandings. Finally, the dragon is revealed to be a rescued Komodo dragon and “wizard” the result of young Cassie’s difficulties pronouncing the word “lizard,” and soon all are friends. Here’s hoping the next books will go lighter on the exposition, characters, and heavy-handedness.
The didactic plot is further hampered by exposition and too many characters to keep straight. (preview of next book) (Fiction/animal fantasy. 7-10)