Title: The Mare’s Tale
Author: Darrel and Sally Odgers
Illustrator: Janine Dawson
Genre: Realistic Fantasy (told from the dog’s point of view, but has very realistic events)
Age: Early Elementary
Is This Part of a Series?: Yes (book 2 in the Pet Vet series)
*I received a copy of this book as a prize. You may purchase it at Usborne or through your local Usborne Independent Consultant.
Trump and his owner Dr. Jeanie are doing their rounds around the town of Cowfork, the remnants of the storm from the night before causing various hiccups. Along the way they help some sick calves, talk with some border collies, meet a pregnant and nervous mare, and a sick dalmatian.
This book has an engaging premise, cute pictures, and a nice pace. It is fun, educational, and a nice step up from the Billie B. Brown books as a chapter book (with more pages and more words per page).
The Nitty Gritty:
Honestly, there is nothing special about the writing techniques in this book–but more importantly, there’s nothing wrong with them either. It is simple and straight-forward and, well, rather cutesy. The book is told from the point of view of a dog, Trump, whose experiences as an “Animal Liaison Officer” at Pet Vet Clinic have allowed her to pick up multiple animal languages and a thorough understanding of many species, humans, and illnesses. While this results in a rather anthropomorphized dog, it allows for the children to connect to the book. And it is important to note that there is a good amount of realistic dog behavior in this book as well, despite the heavy dose of human qualities that have been applied to Trump. Overall, it is a pretty good mixture of human and dog behavior, especially considering that this is a children’s book.
The story itself is cute, but has no real tension in it (to me, anyway). This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and could, in fact, be good for some kids. However, there’s never any doubt that things will work out well. Or even that Trump or Dr. Jeanie really have to work hard in order for things to work out well. There are also no temper tantrums, name-calling, or other negative aspects of childhood included in this book. Trump, despite being a dog, is a very relatable character and–from a mom’s perspective–is a hard-working, good-natured role model for the children who are reading this book.
- The beginning of this book includes a nice “Welcome to Pet Vet Clinic” section, a “Staff at the Pet Vet Clinic” and “Other Important Characters” section, and a “Map of Pet Vet Clinic” section. These pieces provided a good grounding in the series despite the fact that I was not starting with Book 1.
- Vocabulary side bars–throughout the book there are several bolded words (such as isolation and cockatoo) that include a definition box on the same page. I found this feature to be very nice and not one that I see often (what I do see is vocabulary words at the end of the chapter or end of the book)
- “Trump’s Diagnosis”–at the end of each chapter is a small paragraph titled “Trump’s Diagnosis” where Trump gives a quick summary and/or explanation of something that was covered in that specific chapter.
- There are also one to two illustrations per chapter
Book Club Chatter:
Here are some questions, organized by chapter, to help check comprehension and engage in a deeper connection with the child(ren) you are reading this book to/with:
- Chapter One:
Have you ever been in a noisy storm? If so, how did it make you feel?
Do you have a pet? Have you had to take it to the vet? What for?
After working with the sick kitten, Dr. Jeanie washes her hands. Trump says this is pass any disease from patient to patient. How does washing her hands help Dr. Jeanie keep patients healthy? When are times that you should wash your hands?
- Chapter Two:
Why do Dr. Jeanie and Trump go on rounds?
Where is the first place that Dr. Jeanie and Trump go on their rounds?
Trump says that she and Pammie are “polite and friendly equals”. What does it mean to be someone’s equal? Who are some people you are equal to?
The barn cat is surprised that Trump can talk in Cat-speak. How do you think you would react if a dog came up to you and started talking Human-speak?
- Chapter Three:
Shall seems surprised when she meets Dr. Jeanie for the first time. What are some reasons she might be surprised that Dr. Jeanie is a vet?
The horse, Helen of Troy, has a dog as a companion to help keep her calm and happy. Are there times in your life where you would like to have a companion to stay calm and happy? Since you don’t have a dog companion, what are some things you can do instead (like deep breathing, etc)? If you could have any animal as your companion, what animal would you choose?
- Chapter Four:
Was there a time that you hurt a lot? Did it keep you from doing things you like doing? If so, what? How did you get hurt in the first place? How long did it take for you to get better? What did you do to get better?
It turned out that part of Paris’ problem is that he is dehydrated. He doesn’t have enough fluid in his body. Do you think it is important for humans to stay hydrated? What’s the best thing to drink to stay hydrated?
*This would be a great opportunity to go into how humans stay healthy, go searching for more information online, etc. Look up how many glasses of water a person should have (there are charts that show in more detail based on height and weight rather than the straight “8 eight ounce glasses”), how long people can live without water, etc.
- Chapter Five:
This chapter spends a lot of time talking about things that can happen when your body doesn’t work. What do you think it would be like to be deaf? Think about your favorite song. What is it? How would you feel if you never got to hear it again? Do you think that you can tell if a person is deaf–or arthritic–just by looking at them? Do you think there are other sicknesses or disabilities that you can’t see? (You can go as deep into this discussion as you and your child are interested in, including doing research online about various disabilities, treatments, how they impact a persons life, etc)
- Chapter Six:
Have you ever been woken up in the middle of the night? What happened? How did that make you feel?
Have you ever slept in a sleeping bag? What for? What was it like? Did you enjoy it? When are some other times you might need to sleep in a sleeping bag?
- Chapter Seven:
Helen says that horse races are very noisy. Why do you think they are noisy? Have you been to something very noisy? How did the noise make you feel?
What was your favorite part of this chapter?
Why do you think animals that are having babies need to be calm?
- Chapter Eight:
*This chapter provides a great opportunity to look up video of a foal being born or, depending on the child’s age or interest, simply video of a new born foal walking around, etc.
Helen has a healthy foal–or baby girl horse. What would be a good name for her? Why did you pick that name?
What was your favorite part of the book?
If you were writing a story with Trump and Dr. Jeanie in it, what animal or animals would you have them treating? What adventures would they have?