From a gripping prologue regarding the author’s own real life introduction to the subject matter, through follow-up resources offered at story’s end, EMMA’S GIFT by Nancy Kehoe spans the life of a young animal lover who dreams of becoming a worldwide, animal-rights championing veterinarian. Exploring the cruelty of puppy mills, poachers, wildlife protection, and the rehabilitation–as well as effective adoption of abused animals–is sure to appeal to many readers, especially younger ones.
The book is classified as Young Adult, though it reads more appropriate for Middle Readers; particularly since the main character Emma is 14 when the story begins, but acts and speaks like someone aged 8 – 11. For example, while it is possible that a certain type of teen might voluntarily snuggle with their parents on the couch and having a grandmother that’s her “very best friend in the whole world”, in general it seems like unlikely behavior. If the book is intended to reflect an earlier era celebrating what now seems like old-fashioned values, this would need to be made more clear at the beginning.
Authors such as Judy Blume in Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret have been able to credibly portray touchingly real relationships between adolescents and a grandparent, but in this novel, these aspects don’t quite ring true. Emma’s friendship-turned-romantic relationship/eventual-marriage with neighbor boy Alex also reads as if its unfolding during a Little House on the Prairie era. However, what EMMA’S GIFT lacks in consistently believable characterization it often makes up for in the many scenes devoted to the care and protection of animals. Dealing with poachers in Africa that have almost caused gorillas and chimpanzees to become extinct, rescuing baby elephants whose mothers are murdered for tusks…these scenes are the heart of the tale, and where the story comes convincingly to life. Fictitiously introducing Dr. Jane Goodall as a character along with her important work is a nice touch.
Format-wise, a standard e-book Table of Contents with hot links would be useful.
Though the story’s main subject matter–exploring the cruelty of puppy mills, poachers, wildlife protection, and the rehabilitation–is relevant today, EMMA’S GIFT by Nancy Kehoe feels more like a gentle throwback to children’s novels reflecting an earlier time.
~C.S. Holmes for IndieReader