Title: The School for Talking Pets
Author: Kelli Anne Hawkins
Genre: Magical Realism
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Published: 1st September 2021
Synopsis: DOCTOR DOLITTLE MEETS WILLY WONKA IN THIS FUNNY AND THRILLING ADVENTURE FROM AN EXCITING NEW VOICE.
TALKING pets? Double tick!
Silly spies, secret plots and one shy kid who might just save the day? Tick, tick, tick!
Anything’s possible at the School for Talking Pets …
When Rusty Mulligan and his pet blue-tongued lizard win a week on a secret island, at Miss Alice Einstein’s School for Talking Pets, the shy twelve-year-old is thrilled. His best friend will learn to talk!
But once on the island, things don’t go to plan … And Rusty must work with the other competition winners, a terrifyingly tattooed gardener, and a multitude of clever animals to save the school from the clutches of the two secret agents who have come to shut it down — by any means necessary …
Rusty Mulligan is lonely, not very good at school, and wishes he could talk to his pet blue-tongue lizard, Bongo. So when he wins a competition for a week away at Miss Alice Einstein’s School for Talking Pets and becomes one of the first human students at the school. But there is a sinister plan afoot from two secret agents. Rusty is worried about fitting in with the other winners – Shelby and Porky from America, Braithwaite and Bismarck from England, Maximillian and Hannah from Germany and Akira and Sora from Japan – to find his place at the school with the first talking lizard – but is Bongo really the first lizard to learn to talk? Or does the tattooed man have secrets of his own that Rusty will uncover? Rusty will uncover the nefarious plot – and a few other secrets about the school, Amelia and school prodigy Nader Heydar, a cat who is quite accomplished and helping Amelia with her human and pet combined learning experiment.
Fun, mystery, and intrigue await Rusty and Bongo at the School for Talking Pets, far from their home in Australia. They must join the fight to keep it open and in true middle grade style, it embarks on a magical journey of talking animals, a secret place of wonder – much like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, and five plucky kids and their chatty animals that brings shades of Dr Doolittle to the story, as billed on the book by the publisher. Yet the similarities end there – Kelli Anne Hawkins has upped the ante, done away with the disposal of naughty children (Willy Wonka, you know what you did), and creates a fun world that anyone of any age would love to be a part of.
Books like this are joyful – they allow us to escape the realities of current world events and the pandemic, and show s that even our wildest dreams come true, with a clever play on the pigs might fly cliché in the book that has a surprising result and outcome. The story is populated by fun animal characters, diversity and loads of humour so wonderfully done that it feels like one of those unifying books that many people aged eight and older will enjoy. It was one that I just read and read because I wanted to find out if the pets talked and what was going to happen to the school, and the characters were wonderful. There was a sense of mystery at times but for those who took centre stage, there was no malice and deception, which gives the book a calming feel, and sense of knowing what to expect.
I loved this book – it captured my heart and imagination from the beginning and allows readers to imagine what it would be like to talk to their pets and learn alongside their pets. What would our pets say to us if they could talk to us beyond barks, meows and chirping? Well, if you ever wanted to know, then this is the book for you, and if you listen closely, maybe you will hear what your pet is trying to say to you.