Friday, January 1, 2016

Vet Volunteers by Laurie Halse Anderson

Say Good-Bye
Vet Volunteers #5
Image result for Say Good-Bye Vet Volunteers #5 by Laurie Halse Anderson cover image
I don't know what my grandchildren will think of this series, 
but I am enthralled with this fifth installment!
I was lucky to purchase this very cheaply at a neighboring library book sale.
I decided to finish out the 12 Book of "Christmas"/December challenge 
(thanks for hosting, Shaina!) by reading some of the children's books I've purchased and wanted to review before sending 
them off to my grandchildren who recently moved away.
Smart move! Now I want to read all of them! 

I realize I may be a bit prejudiced toward such reading materials since for as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a veterinarian. What stopped me? Well, it wasn't the academic studies, but the fact that I was literally allergic to each and every fur-bearing animal out there. Though I always had an outside dog as a best buddy while roaming my grandmother's 180-acre farm, I had to be careful about never touching my face after petting an animal, always vigilant about washing my hands as soon as I came inside, etc. (Yes, it was a bore...) And, of course, I was never able to have a pet indoors with me. 

Fortunately, I did discover NAET during adulthood and following treatment can now cohabit with our five rescued felines! :) Naturally, I wish I had been able to do this in childhood, as my life might have been quite different, but we can't relive the past, so I am just grateful for this positive change in my life! 

I wish books such as these had been available to me as a youngster! I would have inhaled them, I'm sure! I found Anderson's writing to be so very skillful. Her characters were well drawn and true to themselves, being both believable and vulnerable. Although there was conflict, each character was able to adjust and cooperate. While the reader can feel sympathy and perhaps empathy for Zoe, we also learn to cheer for her successes regardless of her mother's seeming abandonment.

Zoe was raised the first 12 years of her life in Manhattan, New York, with people hired to do everything for her and her mother. When the TV show in which her mother had a leading role is canceled, her mother feels as if she must move cross-country to California to pursue her acting career. Zoe is then sent to live with her veterinarian grandmother in Maine until her mother can support her once again and bring her to California. Sounds simple...but, of course, it is not so simple for Zoe! Initially Zoe tried to cope by using her imagination:
  At first I dreamed up this fantasy. I would call my long-lost father and go live 
  with him--it would be this wonderful reunion, like straight out of the movies. 
  He'd realize how much he missed me and be thrilled to have me back in his 
  life. Maybe he and Mom would even... (13)
Ah...sounds so familiar. Once in awhile during my own childhood I would create such fantasies regarding my own father, whom I had never met...and never did have the opportunity to meet. I could relate. 

I could also relate to Zoe's attraction to Emma, the one child in the cancer ward who seemed totally unwilling to engage with others. Again, I was reminded how I typically persevere with those who seem disengaged for whatever reason(s). It was gratifying to see that by being honest, Zoe is able to break through Emma's initial resistance. 

Not only do we learn of Zoe's disappointment with her mother, but also her challenges with training Sneakers, a puppy her grandmother has allowed her to adopt. We also see how encouragement and acknowledgement of accomplishments can go a long way. Zoe is bemoaning her lack of ability to train Sneakers, when Jane notes
  He had a really tough beginning--starved and mistreated. All that could have 
  made him a mean or mistrustful dog. But he's not. He's very happy and 
  loving. Part of that's his nature, but part of it's due to how he's been treated. 
  How you've treated him. (103)
Zoe thinks to herself
  I hadn't thought of that. I was beginning to think I was just a big, fat failure 
  when it came to Sneakers. Sure, I'm probably not the best dog trainer. But 
  maybe loving Sneakers is a good start. (103)
Ah...building a relationship from a foundation of love and trust is the matter what that relationship may be.

Initially, I was a bit fearful this series might be rather shallow, or a bit too "Pollyanna-ish," but I needn't have worried. I would highly recommend this series!! There are now 17 books!

Have you read any of these books? 
Or any others written by Laurie Halse Anderson?
I was quite impressed!

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