Anjali Banerjee, line drawing illustration by Ann Boyajian,
Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, 2010.
In Anjali Banerjee’s chapter book, Seaglass Summer, an Indian-American eleven-year-old from Los Angeles, Poppy Ray, spends the summer with her uncle, a veterinarian on an island near Seattle, while her parents return to India on vacation. Poppy’s general exuberance and love of animals soon run afoul of her squeamishness at the all-too-real (and sometimes bloody) details of animal care as she tries to help out in her uncle’s Furry Friends Animal Clinic. She also faces the challenges of an unfamiliar rural environment and her first lengthy separation from her parents.
Uncle Sanjay alludes to early discrimination against him (for one thing, he had to complete veterinary school in the U.S. despite having already earned a veterinary degree in India), but Poppy’s summer reveals more cultural differences between L.A. and Puget Sound than between India and America. Poppy develops a close relationship with the endearing Sanjay, who always refers to her as “my dear niece,” and his irrepressible dog Stu. An eccentric cast of animal and human characters parade through the chapters, offering Poppy experiences ranging from a psychic reading to off-site emergency care for an injured dog. She suffers the disdain of one of Sanjay’s employees and the teasing of Hank, a 13-year-old also helping at the clinic, who boyishly grosses her out, then earns her friendship. Animals are born, recover from amputations, survive car accidents, and die in their owner’s arms.