The Critter Club by Callie Barkley

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I won’t need to shelve this new series for emerging readers by Callie Barkley.  Four diverse and engaging best friends, cute animals, illustrations on every page, and the all-important chapters. The Critter Club is guaranteed to earn its own “waiting list.”  I just read the first book in the series – Amy and the Missing Puppy – which sets up the story of the four friends – Amy, Marion, Ellie and Liz.  In the first chapter, “Spring Break Blues,” Amy finds herself alone during Santa Vista Elementary’s spring break. The other girls all have plans…”Amy’s heart sank a little. Her friends all had somewhere to go or something to do. She didn’t.”  But she does have a Nancy Drew book to read – and soon a mystery to solve.

Amy’s mother is a veterinarian and one of her patients – a “drooly Saint Bernard puppy” named Rufus – belongs to Ms Sullivan, the richest woman in town. When Rufus disappers, Amy wonders “how Nancy Drew would solve this mystery.”  Like any good detective, Amy gets out a notebook and follows the clues. She finds Rufus and a grateful town millionaire thanks Amy by suggesting her barn be used as an animal shelter – the Critter Club is born!

As an adult reader, what I liked best about the first two books are the portrayals of different family structures. Amy’s parents are divorced, Ellie’s grandmother lives with her family, Marion has a horse. The girls remind me of a group of 2nd grade girls who sometimes bring their lunches and eat in the library. They laugh a lot. They get frustrated with one another. They have sleepovers. They make mistakes and they apologize.  Ellie, Amy, Marion and Liz felt real to me.  These books are going in our library – and on Inly’s summer reading list.

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