The Shelter Pet Squad are a group of kids who volunteer at the local pet shelter, taking care of the animals and helping Ms. Kim and Ms. Flores, who run the shelter, with adoptions. In the latest book in the series, the gang meet a group of new puppies referred to as “satos” – mutts or mixed breed dogs – found in Puerto Rico. Suzannah, one of the squad kids, falls in love with Paloma, one of the new satos who was found, with her siblings, in an old tire. Suzannah doesn’t have any pets, because her building won’t allow it – but she really loves Paloma, and is torn between wanting her to go to a good home, and staying at the shelter just a little longer so she can have more time with her.
Shelter Pet Squad #3: Paloma, by Cynthia Lord (Jan. 2016, Scholastic), $5.99, ISBN: 9780545636049
Recommended for ages 7-10
This is my first foray into the Shelter Pet Squad series, and I really enjoyed it. There are diverse characters, both male and female, to attract both boys and girls who love animals – and what kid doesn’t love a book about animals? The kids are ordinary kids who help at their local pet shelter – kids can identify with them, and be inspired to do something to help at home. The characters are friendly, polite, and enthusiastic about what they do, and they react like real kids to situations; witness, Suzannah’s desire to adopt Paloma. She knows she can’t bring her home because her building doesn’t allow pets, so she doesn’t want her adopted right away – she wants to spend more time with her! And when Paloma isn’t adopted right away, Suzannah feels guilty. It’s an honest, human reaction that kids will recognize and appreciate.
There’s some great, subtle instruction in here about taking care of pets, too. The kids learn how to approach a dog, for instance (let it smell your upturned palm, don’t go to pet it right away); they learn to make toys for mice (fill a wiffle ball with paper and seeds that they can discover on their own), and even make no-sew pillows for the new puppies to sleep on. Instructions for the pillow craft are included at the end of the book, and that makes for a fun craft time at school, the library, or home. Kids will also love the Erin McGuire’s black and white illustrations of the kids and the pets.
Series like these always do well at my libraries. There are so many of them, it’s hard for me to keep up with them all! I think I’ll be ordering Shelter Pet Squad – it’s kids helping animals, helping each other, and having fun. What more can you ask out of a series?
Cynthia Lord is the Newbery Honor award-winning author of Rules. I love her picture book, Hot Rod Hamster, and so do the kids I read it with during storytime. Her author website has materials and resources for many of her books, and brief excerpts for the previous two Shelter Pet Squad books. The first book in the series, Jelly Bean, was named one of the 2014 ABC Best Books for Children list by American Booksellers Association.