Seemingly plucked from a middle-of–last-century bookshelf, this wholesome tale of a spunky fifth-grade girl’s experiences in rural Nevada has a paint-by-numbers feel that keeps it from living up to the author’s illustrious reputation.
Readers meet Ivy as she bikes up a hill to visit her friend Annie, stopping along the way to rescue a turtle that’s been run over. While Annie and Ivy’s relationship plays a role in the plot, Ivy’s love of animals and dreams for the future quickly become the focus. Looking for a way to earn some money, Ivy decides to offer her services as an animal sitter. While life was likely simpler in 1949, at least in some ways, the ease with which Ivy finds jobs and the local vet’s trust in her abilities (he allows her to give a wild fox an injection) will both seem a mite unlikely to contemporary readers. A pesky neighbor boy creates some unexpected problems, but overall, it’s smooth sailing with an especially happy ending (no dead dogs here). Although the tone is spot-on, with endearingly folksy dialogue and an innocent worldview, the contrived plot and limited character development will likely keep readers from caring much about Ivy.
Disappointingly bland fare, this might please enthusiastic animal lovers or parents who prefer squeaky-clean stories but will leave most other readers wishing for more. (Historical fiction. 8-10)