cover image Pretty Polly

Pretty Polly

Dick King-Smith. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $14 (120pp) ISBN 978-0-517-58606-8

Animal lovers who have relished King-Smith's collection of farm fantasies and unusual pet stories will welcome this latest addition, which stars a very clever hen. Dismayed that her parents won't buy her a talking parrot, Abigail decides to teach one of her father's new chicks to speak the Queen's English. Persistence and patience pay off, for within a few months Pretty Polly utters her first words: Eat Wheaties. After outsiders get wind of the miracle at the Brown farm, Abby fears Pretty Polly may be stolen or sold off by her father. All ends well, however, even though the pullet's mysterious disappearance causes quite a scare. Unlike the author's Harry's Mad, Babe: The Gallant Pig and Ace: The Very Important Pig, this book reveals only human points of view; the thoughts and feelings of the exceptional animal are never divulged. Although sections of the story (particularly a scene set in the courtyard of the Duke of Severn's castle) are highly imaginative and witty, the author's plot lines are becoming somewhat formulaic. Nonetheless, his characters, scenes and perspectives remain fresh and captivating. Ages 7-12. (Sept.)