Leave It to Plum!

Greenwillow. Jun. 2022. 128p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780063079168.
Gr 3-7–In this alliterative zoo tale, peppy purple peacock Plum befriends Jeremy, a sad and solitary street kitty, who returns the favor by saving all the peafowl from a frightening fate. It seems that nefarious ningbing Itch, a mouselike marsupial aiming to get the feathered flock ejected, has concocted a scheme to frame the flightless fowl for a series of theft, and then dispatch them via an “accident” on the zoo’s closed-off elevated monorail. Fortunately, Plum manages to send a signal that brings his feline ally racing to the rescue in the nick of time. And being grateful, as well as the most beneficent of birds, Plum goes on to hook Jeremy up with lonely new zookeeper Lizzie. Perhaps Phelan can be forgiven for portraying the tails of both peacocks and peahens with the same calligraphic swirls, as the expressive ink-and-wash animal portraits that pack his short chapters of well-paced narrative are done in a fanciful style. Progressing readers weaned on similarly sited anthropomorphic shenanigans like Diane Redfield Massie’s Baby beebee bird or Philip Stead’s Amos McGee tales will find their suspicions that it really is all happening at the zoo further confirmed.
VERDICT A buoyant tale for younger middle grade readers, with a mild dose of danger for spice and an extroverted protagonist on a mission to “mingle, guide, delight.”

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