Penguin Random House
31 July 2017
Imprint : Puffin (AU YR)
This new series from Rebecca Johnson is perfect for those who have graduated from Juliet Nearly a Vet with girls who are just a little older and perhaps with a slightly more exciting setting. The three main characters – Abbey, Talika and Hannah are the newest recruits at boarding school Willowvale in its Vet Cadet program. So each book combines all those great things that girls especially love to read about – boarding school, friendships, animals and adventures. They are easy to read and quickly finished for the most part and each also has fun facts about the featured animal/s and other useful information. My only slight criticism of these two is that in one book MrMcPhail’s rescue dog is referred to as a cattle dog and in the other as a border (actually on one page a ‘boarder’) collie. I’m not trying to be pedantic but it is exactly the sort of detail I know my girls would pick up on!
Saving Itsy Bitsy
When the school’s sow Henrietta has her litter of adorable piglets there is one tiny runt which looks like it won’t make it. However, the three girls are determined to save Bitsy and with dedication and help from sympathetic staff the tiny piglet begins to thrive and is able to go back with the rest of her family.
Those of us with a soft spot for piglets will especially warm to this feel-good story.
Alongside the struggle to save Bitsy there is the mystery of a spate of cattle thefts to be resolved. The girls with their quick minds and powers of observation are able to assist in a happy outcome with this as well.
In Book 4, the girls’ science teacher Mrs Parry sets the task of raising and training day old chicks to prove that they are not ‘bird brains’. There is a lot of advocacy about caged hens and unethical egg production along the way which can only be a good thing. No doubt after reading this there will be many breakfast tables around Australia where hard questions are asked!
I have to add that this assignment seems to be the most arduous school work to appear in the books – I’m sure lots of girls would want to join the ranks at Willowvale if that’s the case!
In addition to their chicken lobbying, the girls face a trauma when a game of horseback hide-and-seek takes a sinister turn when a horse on the neighbouring property is diagnosed with Hendra virus. Will the girls’ horses be alright? It’s a worrying time for them all.
All in all these are lots of fun with, as to be expected, a real scientific flavour throughout. Rebecca has a winning way of integrating her passion for science with her narratives and you can be sure that there will many readers who begin to dream of such a career path after experiencing it vicariously.
Highly recommended for your readers from about 8 – 13.
PS Certainly Miss K loves the idea of being ‘nearly a vet’!