King-Smith's "determined" Sophie, who first appeared, at four, in Sophie's Snail (1989), has always been a winning character; such vicissitudes as a suburban domicile, obstreperous twin brothers, and her parents' proscriptions against pets (mellowing more with each book) have never diverted her from her goal of becoming a "lady farmer." Now nearing seven, she's right in character here, and the author's scenes are still amusing, his descriptions apt; but the events (on a farm-stay holiday, Sophie begins riding lessons) don't add up to a real plot, while Sophie's oft-reiterated characteristics receive so little new embellishment as to wear a little thin. (And there's the annoying translation of "Mum" to "Mom" — when other books are proudly introducing words from other languages by defining them by their contexts. Does multiculturalism extend only to those who don't share our mother tongue) But even second-best Sophie is better-than-average young reader fare, and Parkins's frequent drawings continue to be witty and precise. (Fiction. 5- 9) Read full book review >
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