The latest installment in the Animal Rescue Center series metes out a lesson on not jumping to conclusions.
During cleanup after a pair of unruly Dalmatians run amok in Grandpa’s garden center, Ella Harrison discovers a live hamster in a trash bin. She’s furious; who’d leave a poor, defenseless creature in the garbage? After christening the hamster Hamlet, Ella makes it her mission to find out who left the little guy in the rubbish. It’s not long before she has her suspect. It has to be the Dalmatians’ human girl, Katie. After all, Katie is new in town, and Ella sees her lurking everywhere she goes—apparently eavesdropping—and there’s a discarded hamster cage in Katie’s house. Ella is dead set on outing Katie as the culprit, but Grandpa advises her not to make hasty assumptions and to befriend Katie instead. As the new kid in the neighborhood, she’s probably lonely: “How would you feel if you were her?” Grandpa asks. It turns out Grandpa is right: Katie is shy, and she’s still grieving the loss of her recently deceased hamster, Daisy. Now that Hamlet needs a home, can Ella trust Katie to take care of him? It’s a straightforwardly told tale, expressly pitched to an animal-loving audience, with nuance in its character development mostly conveyed through dialogue. Occasional black-and-white illustrations depict an all-white cast.
An engaging, though didactic, mystery for chapter-book readers who can’t get enough animal stories. (Fiction. 7-10)