by Anjali Banerjee
I liked this book. It\’s about an eleven-year-old girl who goes to spend the summer with her uncle on Nisqually Island, which is off the coast of Washington state (where I grew up). Poppy Ray is excited to visit her uncle because he\’s a veterinarian, and she\’s always wanted to be one too. She is determined to help out at his clinic, even brings along her own instrument kit. But work at the clinic is harder than she thought- prickly clients to please, messes to clean up, creepy specimens in jars the tech\’s son shows her. She feels queasy watching her uncle do wound care and is emotionally shaken when an older, ailing pet is brought in to be put down. Poppy starts to wonder if she really wants to be a veterinarian after all.
The story is really well-told, author Banerjee has a nice voice authentic to a pre-teen\’s concerns and snarky remarks on things that don\’t seem right to her. I was glad that the story wasn\’t all completely focused on the vet clinic- there are walks on the beach, troublesome moments between Poppy Ray and the boy at the clinic (he teases her at first, then starts to befriend her, then puts her down in front of other kids…) and an interesting character in one of the clients, a woman who claims to be a clairvoyant, wants to give Poppy a palm reading and some advice on her life\’s path. Poppy isn\’t so sure about all that. She has some growing up to do, and comes to realize that, just as her uncle tells her, the wonderful moments in veterinary work- saving injured animals, helping at the birth of some puppies, etc- make up for the difficult ones.
I only wish there had been more pictures. The few pencil drawings that front the chapters – one shown on a simpler cover version I found- have a lot of charm and I would have liked to see more of them. Also one small annoying detail threw me off. I really liked all the descriptions of riding the ferry, whale-watching for orca pods and other details that place the story in a locale I know well. But quite a number of the characters call Poppy \”hon\” or \”honey.\” I never heard anyone use that term, growing up. It took some getting used to when I moved to the east coast and heard people calling my then-toddler (or myself!) \”hon\”. It\’s just an east coast thing, am I right?
Rating: 3/5 170 pages, 2010