Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Welcome to Silver Street Farm by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Katherine McEwen

I saw a recommendation for a later book in this series and thought I'd start with the first one. I'm always looking for new beginning chapter series that will be popular but are something a little different.

This is Nicola Davies' first fiction series, all her other titles being nonfiction or poetry. It includes a lot of the things that Davies feels strongly about; animal rights, urbanization, and getting kids to have hands on experience and care about the world around them.

Gemma, Meera, and Karl love animals and can think of nothing better than having their own farm. There's just one problem; they all live in small apartments in the city. Then they hear about an abandoned train station that sounds perfect, and it's great timing since Karl's aunt accidentally buys a couple sheep. Suddenly animals are showing up left and right and everything is falling into place. But then the city council tells the children that they're planning to tear down the station and build a new car park. Will they have to give up their farm?

I really liked that Davies included a variety of characters without making a big deal out of it, or creating one of those girl group series where it seems like they're trying to bring to life one of those "dolls of all nations" sets. These are just kids who like animals and are friends. The story is pretty much pure wish fulfillment from beginning to end, but it's no less enjoyable for that. The kids just happen to have the requisite knowledge to care for the different animals they collect, there just happens to be a local news source that wants to promote their story, the whole city backs them up in creating a city farm, and the stereotypically evil city councilors immediately back down. At the end of the story, a farm manager shows up out of the blue - and informs them that she doesn't need to be paid.

Verdict: Not every story has to be realistic, and kids who love animals will revel in the joyful fantasy of having their own farm. The story is funny and only devolves into didactism in a couple places. As a debut beginning chapter book it's quite passable. If you already have the standard animal lovers' beginning chapter books (Daisy Dawson, Lulu, Down Girl and Sit, and Sophie) and need more in this genre, this is one worth considering.

ISBN: 9780763658311; Published 2011 by Candlewick; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Added to the library's order list

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