THE PEPPER PARTY PICKS THE PERFECT PET is an elementary level chapter book that is the first in a series about The Pepper Party, a family that is raucous and loving and wild and fun. The focus for this introduction to the Pepper family is adopting a pet from the local animal shelter. Author and illustrator Jay Cooper keeps the storyline moving with entertaining antics and creative combinations, but there are also issues surrounding the treatment of pets and shelter animals that crop up.
The main Pepper family member in this story is Annie Pepper, and she desperately wants to adopt a shivery Chihuahua from Frida Flamingo’s Animal Adoption Agency. Her plans to convince her family are turned upside down when her father agrees to adopt a pet, BUT it must be done by traditional Pepper Family rules that involve pulling names from a hat. What ensues is a parade of siblings choosing pets (a tarantula, a forlorn lovebird and a snobbish cat, a pig…) and then returning them when things go awry thanks to sabotage by envious family members.
What is problematic is the cavalier adoption and return of the pets. The family thinks nothing of swapping out animals for a new choice. And there is no attempt to match the animal with the lifestyle of the family prior to handing them over and waving goodbye. To his credit, Cooper brings up consequences towards the end of the story with Frida Flamingo’s mild scolding of the family’s lack of training and preparation regarding their chosen pets. At one point, the family is also told that they are banned from adopting any new animals. To that end, the story opens up opportunities for conversations about pet care and responsibility. Redeemably, the character of Annie works hard to “do the right thing” for the animals.
The wacky events that string The Pepper Party Picks the Perfect Pet together will appeal to elementary school readers who love Captain Underpants and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. And the illustrations are clever and cute. We suggest being prepared for conversations about responsible pet care and how to choose a pet wisely with your children.
Review by Kristin Wald