Review – Animal Rescue Series

Leo is an odd kid. And, alas, odd kids rarely have friends. Well, actually, he does have one friend . . . his guinea pig, Alan Nesbit Kirk; a guinea pig who believes nothing special ever happens to Leo. He even tells him so.

‘Nothing interesting ever happens to you,’ Alan Nesbit Kirk says to Leo one sunny day by the guinea pig cage.

Leo agrees. Nothing interesting ever happens when other kids think you’re weird.

I must say, being able to talk to a guinea pig doesn’t, in my book, count as weird. It kind of counts as super cool. And it’s not only guinea pigs Leo can talk to. Pigeons. Dogs. School lab rats. He can truly talk to the animals, and little does he know that Mozz – the coolest, smartest girl in school – knows this. She knows because Alan Nesbit Kirk told the cat next door who told a passing cockatoo who told Mozz’s gran’s giraffe who told Charlie the gorilla, who then told Mozz and her gran, the very clever Dr Drizzsock.

Frankly, you won’t believe what Mozz and her gran are up to behind closed doors. Astonishing stuff. When Leo is approached by a gorilla on a skateboard who leads him through a mysterious, hologramed volcano to Dr Drizzsock’s hideout, well – that’s only the tip of the iceberg in this rollicking eco-warrior adventure.

After a trip in a supersonic aircraft made of recycled drink bottles and fueled by rotting banana skins and disposable nappies, Leo finds himself on an Indonesian island, tasked with saving a group of endangered elephants, about to be swamped by a tsunami. This may all sound far-fetched, but much of the bones of this story and its sustainability and endangered-species messages, are very real.

For an early reader book, this is some highly-detailed, richly woven story, nonetheless told clearly, simply, engagingly and with a hefty dose of humour . . . a combination author Jackie French does so very beautifully.

Leo and his first animal rescue adventure is a madcap read that hones in strongly on several important messages that don’t charge at children like a spurned elephant, but rather implant themselves gently into sponge-like little heads.

I’m loving the factual references at the end of the book that add an extra dimension to this mostly-fiction tale, and I’m gagging to grapple with that gorgeous gorilla in Gorilla Grab. These books are really great fun, and I’m sure the astonishing adventures of Leo and Mozz have only just begun.

Elephant Alert and Gorilla Grab are out this month, published by Scholastic. Ideal for early readers or for kids struggling to read – ages 6 – 10.


Published by

Tania McCartney

Tania McCartney is an author of children's books and adult non-fiction. Recent books include Riley and the Grumpy Wombat: A journey around Melbourne, and Australian Story: An Illustrated Timeline. She's also an editor, publisher and founder of Kids Book Review.