Shelter Pet Squad: Jelly Bean by Cynthia Lord

Here at Dickens, literature circles are an integral part of literacy programs from grade two and up. Finding books for those younger readers that have enough substance to be included, yet are at an appropriate reading level, is one of my biggest challenges. 

It was with much delight that I found this book at our recent book fair. On the back it claims that it is written at a grade two reading level. Cynthia Lord is a stellar writer whose work I always enjoy. So I took a risk and picked up eight  copies without reading the book first. 

I'm so glad I did. 

This is more than a chapter book. It's a novel written at an easy to read level. 

Susannah loves animals, but can't have a pet because she lives in an apartment building that forbids them. Working at the pet shelter once a week is the best alternative. At first Susannah is apprehensive because she is the youngest member of the squad. It doesn't take long before she connects to the other members as well as the dogs and cats at the shelter. 

On her first day a family with a young girl bring in Jelly Bean, their guinea pig. Susannah promises the distraught girl she will find a good home for Jelly Bean. It isn't as easy as it might seem. She asks all her friends and neighbours, but no one wants a guinea pig. At the shelter, Susannah saves Jelly Bean from being adopted by a snake owner. Eventually, with the help of all the pet squad members, they come up with a plan to find a home for Jelly Bean.

There is so much to love about this book. The characters are well developed. There is a clear problem that needs to be solved. Readers will learn a lot about what goes on at an animal shelter. Erin McGuire's simple, but realistic illustrations are an added bonus. 

The end of the book contains a collection of information pages including: facts about guinea pigs, ways you can help animals in your area, and directions for how to make some of the toys and puzzles Susannah created. There is a section on how to care for a guinea pig and finally, Cynthia Lord tells about her rescued guinea pig. 

I can't wait for the rest of the books in this series!

This book took me back to my days before I left the classroom to become a Teacher Librarian. We had an abyssinian guinea pig named Frodo in our classroom. We loved him. Students took him home on the weekend where he had some hilarious encounters with parents and grandparents. Frodo especially came to adore my husband who taught him to do some tricks. Unfortunately, I developed allergies and when Frodo reached the end of his days, we didn't get another. 

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