In this beautifully crafted story, we meet a brave and kind girl, Polly Pecorino, who is a constant rescuer of small animals. She lives in a small town called Abbeville and goes about her daily life in the usual way. Though Polly is depicted as an ordinary schoolgirl, there is something unusual about this extraordinary girl – she can talk to animals – and only her Uncle Stan and parents know about her gift. And so, the story unfolds.
Emma Chichester Clark writes and illustrates wonderfully, and this book is smart and funny. We meet an array of humorous characters such as Dolores and Albert Snell who own ‘Happy Days Zoo’. This odd couple reminded me of Roald Dahl’s eccentric characters. Clark’s intricate illustrations are a joy to observe, full of colourful characters and animals.
However, this story also has a more subtle, serious side, approaching the care and neglect of animals carefully and eloquently. ‘Happy Days Zoo’ is certainly not a happy place as the Snell couple, who are keen to save money, had to ‘let go’ of many of the old zookeepers who loved and tended the animals. Polly starts to help in the zoo, including brushing an orangutan’s hair. Sadly, the orangutan doesn’t care about his hair anymore, but Polly says, ‘I care, and it will make you feel better’. The reader learns never to underestimate how small acts of kindness by children and adults towards animals and the environment can have a wonderful, positive effect on the world.